For this is the will of God, your sanctification. –1 Thessalonians 4:3
What do we do with tedious homeschool days?
What do we do with turbulent homeschool days?
What do we do with terrible homeschool days?
They happen. Sometimes they outnumber the terrific homeschool days. Ok, often they do, really.
So we’re troubled.
But we shouldn’t be.
Life isn’t going to be easy.
If we smooth out one area of conflict, there will be another to replace it. If we replace one bad habit, we will suddenly unearth another one that needs to be addressed. So we get frustrated and feel like it’s all no use because it is never-ending.
But the Bible has another word for it: sanctification.
If we gain one small victory, we are not done with the battle. We are called to continue to fight this battle all our lives. And the battle is not about bad habits, but about sin: disobeying God’s law, being unkind, being selfish. Habits can be a tool to help conquer sin – because sin can become habitual, and must be replaced with habitual obedience – but that is hard work. It is also good work.
And just because it is hard and never-ending does not mean we are doing something wrong or are failing in our efforts.
We tend to picture sanctification as life getting better and better, but that’s not the way it feels.
It feels like failure, because we need to be brought to the place where we see and admit our failings so we can ask for and submit to God’s grace. Sanctification is not just knowing and doing, it is trading our own will for God’s, it is trading our own glory for His. Instead of self-seeking and self-sufficiency, we have dependence and humility and self-control.
So the bad days are actually opportunities to practice virtue and be sanctified. We can see them as providential rather than disastrous. The bad days keep us humble, and if we’re not humble – we will fall. Better to fall small and repent regularly than continue on in pride and court catastrophe in the end.
Instead of a position of pride, we take the perspective of providence – of seeing that not only does God keep the big picture and results in His own care and control, but He also keeps the details and tiny picture. The child broke the dish? Providential – God’s giving you the opportunity to practice the fruit He gives (you know: patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control). The child is crying over math? Providential – God wants you to grow fruit and not be barren, so He’s giving you small practice problems just like the ones your child is crying over. See, we all don’t like the practice that builds progress, but we need it.
Being quick to see our own insufficiency and therefore our need for God’s grace – that’s repenting. It’s a posture of humility before God. Not because we’re dwelling on our faults and failings, but because we look to Christ to fill our lack.
In reality, the good days are actually born out of the bad days – the bad days lead us to repentance and growth. We need repentance and growth more than we need pleasant and peaceful days.
The bad days are also our secret to having future good days. It’s all about how we handle the junk – our junk, our kids’ junk. Junk – sin – needs to be dealt with. That’s part of the work we’re about. If we ignore it, we ignore a huge part of our responsibility, and a huge linchpin to our success.
We don’t have to grip the reins tight and assume the outcome is all on us. If we have been given the task of educating our children, we will be given the grace to do so. It might not feel like it, but it is true nonetheless. If we obey God – not by homeschooling, but by being loving, joyful, kind, peace-making, gentle, forgiving, and self-controlled – then we also relinquish control and allow God to do whatever He sees fit with our work. He decides.
Our work begins with ourselves. God’s will is our sanctification. For some of us, this path includes homeschooling. For our children, this path includes math and memory work and reading and maybe even Latin. For us, this means checking math, listening to narrations, cleaning up spills, picking up pencils, keeping our cool, correcting spelling, and making lunch – little things, all opportunities to die to our selfish desires and live for Christ by serving others.
Good days and bad all shape us, all train us – us and our children. Hold tight to your higher purpose. Hold tight to your children. Hold tight to your God.
He’s working it all for our good – that is, for our sanctification.
So let us not grow weary or give up.