We Are Not Heroes
We are not heroes. We are not a “model homeschool family” - an example of how to finally get it right! Personally, if I heard that someone was going to be speaking who had perfected the art of homeschooling and had accomplished building an “ideal family,” I’d run the other way! I wouldn’t be able to relate. But if I heard someone was going to share how God showed up in countless ways in the midst of their family’s moments of conflict, discouragement, brokenness, hurt, selfishness and frustration, and how He graciously brought beauty out of ashes again and again in their lives, I would be intrigued. And that is our family’s story.
The insights and life-change that God has built into our lives over the years have not come because we’ve made perfect choices but rather because of God’s grace in the midst of our many struggles and flaws. Homeschooling is hard! The faint of heart or the perfectionist would scarcely last a day at it, much less years on end. I can’t tell you how many days my wife, Susy, sat on the floor of our living room in tears, the house a mess around her and our kids running wild as she wondered if she could hold it together for another week. At the beginning of his teen years, Paul was known as much for his temper and his dishonesty as he was for anything else, and my efforts to build a close relationship with Anna as a little girl seemed to be going nowhere. During all of the many years we homeschooled, I doubt if a single day in our house ever went as planned. That is our story! And to some degree, I’m guessing it is your story too. Thankfully, however, that’s not the whole story.
God never leaves us alone in our struggles. If we face our moments of vulnerability and turn to Him for strength and insight, we will always find that God is waiting right beside us to give us the encouragement and direction we so desperately need. Learning to hear God’s voice and follow His lead in the midst of these challenges is where the real adventure of homeschooling begins! It is not in our moments of feeling “in control” that we are the closest to the life God intends for us. Rather, it is when our inability to be in control prompts us to acknowledge our need for God that we step into the life we were made for—a life of utter dependence upon the grace, strength, Spirit, and direction of our loving God.
I can tell you honestly that, on our own, the Downer family never would have made it. Without the Spirit of God and His love at work in our hearts and relationships, we would have been too irritable, too driven, too perfectionistic, too hurt, too impatient, too offended, too disappointed and too stubborn to live in the grace and gentleness that it takes to set Christ at the center of your family and love each other well. But that’s the amazing joy of the good news that is the gospel! We don’t have to go at it alone. The One who has saved us is the same One who has promised us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And He is the one who taught us how to build a marriage that could survive and even thrive despite the tremendous pressures around us. He taught us how we could raise kids who saw their lives as being about more than fitting in with their peers, medicating their frustrations and boredom with entertainment, and charting a course with their lives that was merely about worldly success and consumerism.
Christ pulled our family close to Himself and taught us how to step into a bigger story than the one we would have written for ourselves. Against all odds, that is the beautiful miracle that God brought about in the midst of our ashes. We are not perfect. But amazingly, that’s OK. Christ’s strength is made perfect in weakness. So we come with a message of hope, humor, biblical insight and practical encouragement. You can experience closer family relationships, greater vision, and more effective homeschooling during this coming year! But the pressure won’t be on you to make it happen, but rather on the Lord as you learn to depend on Him in fresh ways as He carries forward his vitalizing work of renewal in your life and family. If you’re discouraged, don’t give up! God sees you. He is right next to you, and He longs to walk even closer to you than ever before on this adventure of homeschooling. Susy, Paul, Anna and I are eager to be with you at the MACHE convention this April. Our hope is that during those few days together, God will give every one of us a fresh encounter with Him, sending us all back into our homes and the rhythms of our daily lives changed forever. I hope you will be able to join us.