This One Thing I Do!

1 Sep 2000

When our youngest son was about two years old, he put just about every toy he owned in a backpack. Then he put on the backpack. Then he fell over backwards! The weight of all his “stuff” stopped our little boy in his tracks. I remember laughing at the picture, and then realizing that it was a graphic illustration of what happens to so many homeschooling families. They try to run the race that has been set out for them but are weighed down with too much “stuff.” They stumble not because of toys and games and amusements but because of goals and finish lines that compete with God's highest purpose.

That's part of what Paul is saying in Philippians 3:13-14, when he says, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul is encouraging the Philippians to set their sights on the finish line that God had created them to cross. Paul wrote these words (most likely) from a narrow jail cell, where he was awaiting the verdict from Imperial Rome. His life was in the balance, his time was short, his purpose was clear. He didn't have time to do anything but keep the main thing the main thing! He didn't have time to live in the past. But the Apostle also didn't have time to waste. He knew that within the year he could possibly be facing the Roman executioner, so he ran toward the goal with no detours, no delays.

This past year of homeschooling began with a similar mandate for Cindy and me. We asked the Lord, and ourselves, this question: “If we knew this was going to be the last year we could train our children, what would we want to impart to them? What would be the main thing?” And I have to tell you, asking that question has made all the difference. It has given us clarity of purpose in our home education that was missing before. As someone once said, “If a man knows he's going to be hanged in a fortnight, it clears his thinking considerably!” We shook off the fog and were able to see what we believe God has called us to in our homeschooling. What would you believe is an irreducible minimum in your homeschool, if you knew this next year would be your last chance?

Well, we decided that the first and most important goal for our homeschool is to raise sons and daughters who love God and are mighty in Spirit. I remember Teresa Moon said at the NCHE conference last year, “We can have a son or daughter ace Harvard and flunk heaven!” Academics has a place in our home, but not first place! I'm horrified at the thought that I could raise a Pharisee whose head is filled with knowledge and whose heart is as “dead men's bones!” The upward call of God is not math or science, history or language arts! Our first priority with our children this year has not been what is written in their notebooks but what is written in their hearts. We have held a magnifying glass up to our children's character, not to their intellect. We take Matthew 6:33 to be a literal truth—that if we would seek first (and help our children seek first) the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all of these things (math, science, history, CAT scores, etc.) will be added unto us, and that's divine addition! That doesn't mean that we don't spend time on academics. We spend lots of hours every week working in the books, but we tell our children often that the goal of every academic assignment is to better equip them for God's purpose for their lives. We pray daily with them and for them, that He would reveal His life purpose for each of our children. We hold up the vision before our children that God has a high and holy calling for each of them, but that God's first work is one of character development.

Our second priority this past year has been relationships. Cindy and I used to travel with a ministry team up and down the East Coast and into Haiti. One of the members of that group loved to say, whenever someone in the group was stressing about money or sound equipment or clothing, “It's just a thing.” Then she'd add, “And it's all gonna' burn!” What's permanent is people. And since we have only a few short years to invest our lives, why not invest them in something that will last? Let's face it, folks. When you are crawling into the canoe for that trip across the Jordan, you won't be holding onto trophies and awards and ranks and titles and degrees. The only thing that will matter then is the only thing that will matter for eternity: your relationships with Christ and with His children. Therefore, I won't consider myself a success with my children if they score a 1600 on the SAT and despise being in the same room with one another. I will count it as a failure if my child gets a free ride to Yale while a trainload of broken relationships trail behind him. I will hang my head in shame if my child has mastered Copernicus but he still thinks the universe revolves around him! Donald Barnhouse said once, “Christ sends none away empty but those who are full of themselves.” Our second goal, then, is to train up adults (not children!) who are mature in giving and receiving love, who have died to themselves and their rights, and who follow Christ's example of serving others for His sake.

Every now and then, someone will surprise my wife or me with a gift, a real treasure. Someone will say to us, “Your family is an encouragement to me, and I think you are doing a great job raising godly sons and daughters.” When we hear honest praise like that, we thank God for the grace He has given us to prepare seven children who will impact their generation. I will gladly trade the world's riches for a happy and fulfilling marriage, and for children and (one day) grandchildren who love the Lord with all their hearts.

 I don't know what's in your backpack, but if you keep falling over backwards, it may be time to lighten your load! Simplify, streamline, and throw out any weight or sin that entangles you. And run for the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

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