Emphasis on Outward Form

As I did yesterday, I encourage you – nay adjure you – to check the comments section.  Reading my comments alone are like sucking the whipped cream off the top of your mocha.  You get the fluff, but miss the REALLY good stuff.  So, don’t be a sucker – go read the comments! Here is the link to the original article.

I’m going to mix up the placement of a few of Mr. Bradley’s quotes to better emphasize his points…

“…you went out into your yard and planted an apple tree.  Just suppose that one day, while you were waiting for the apples to begin growing on your tree, you caught a glimpse of a neighbor’s apple tree.  You notice in admiration that its branches were laden with big, luscious apples.  Would you run to the produce market to buy some apples, then go home and in the dead of the night, tie them onto your tree?  Fruit is born from the inside – not applied to the outside.”

I had to chuckle when I read this, as I remember going with my parents to tie things onto trees in the middle of the night, only it was colored eggs.  Secondly, my response to this was one of trembling, as I fear that I don’t just fall into temptation regarding this with my children, but for myself as well.  The sin of comparison is one that runs near and dear to my heart.  (Again, just another facet of fear of man.)

“In the homeschooling community I have observed that there can be a great emphasis on outward appearance, whether it is dressing for excellence, modesty, grooming respectful manners, music style or an attitude of sober reverence in worship.  Some even take their children down a country path of humble fashions, raising food and making bread.  Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful – we can model for our children outward changes and easily fall into molding their behavior and/or appearance, while missing their hearts.”

Our kids aren’t old enough to qualify us for being pioneers in the homeschooling movement, but I still feel like we are in many ways.  (Bear with me here, I really do have a point…) We were called to homeschool back in 1985.  We didn’t have any children, we didn’t know anyone who was homeschooling.  We hadn’t even heard of home schooling.  We had however, been diagnosed as being infertile.  Imagine my surprise, when in my prayer closet, I hear the Lord clearly tell me that we would be homeschooling our children.  ??? Children?!!! HOME schooling?  WHAT?!! Never heard of such a thing.  I started asking friends – they had never heard of such a thing.  I left it in my prayer journal and went on my merry way.  Probably 6 mo later, I had the radio on in the car and Focus on the Family came on and they were talking about homeschooling.  SO, there WAS such a thing.  So, childless, but called, we watched.  We waited.  We prayed.  We listened.  We learned.  We also took the time to assess just how called we were to this new movement.  Were we willing to go to jail to home school our children?  Yes, we were.  (And still are, should it come to that.) Many of the people that were homeschooling were also of the same mindset.  But, as the years passed by, it seemed that homeschooling became the current Christian fad.  “Oh yeah, we tried homeschooling.” or “Yep, we did that for a year.”  or “Homeschooling, yep, that’s how we school – I hate it.  I wish I didn’t have to, but what can you do?  You can’t send your kids to public school.”  How does this mindset honor the Lord?  (I won’t even go into what this mindset says to our children!!!)

We have ascertained, since the very beginning, that homeschooling is the way of death.  It is a call to die to yourself.  A few years ago, someone was telling me they were going to give homeschooling a try because their son didn’t like public school.  She said, “I talked to XXXXX and she said homeschooling is a breeze and I should be able to do it no problem.”  “A BREEZE?!  Are you serious?”  Friend: “Yeah… what are you doing that makes it so hard?” Me:”I’m DYING. Every day I get up and have to model the walk of Christ before my children.  My kids don’t walk out the door and afford me the luxury of just allowing my sin to run rampant.  I must exemplify Christ before them.  This ain’t no breeze!” She didn’t get it.  That’s ok.  She was homeschooling because it seemed like the thing to do, it wasn’t a call of God.  For us, it’s a call.  I will freely and openly say, “If you are not CALLED of God to homeschool, don’t do it.”  The cost is high – the benefits far outweigh the costs – but can we glean the benefits if we’re not walking in the way that the Lord has called us to walk? (PLEASE, oh how I pray that this is not coming off as arrogant or holier than thou – for that is not how I feel.  This call feels like no more of a call than any other – no more than Molly talking about her Jeff being called to ministry makes her better than me, our being called to homeschool doesn’t make me better than anyone else.)

Now that you’ve stuck it out – here’s the point:  We must be careful that we’re not doing any of these things – making bread, dressing for excellence or in modesty, picking our music or even homeschooling, out of a desire to fit in with the current Christian crowd.  The infinitely creative Lord did not make all families the same, any more than every fall leaf is colored the same.  I wish Mr Bradley would have gone one step more and said, “Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but we must be careful – to search our own hearts for evidence of fear of man, OR the molding of their behavior and/or appearance, will affect their outward appearance while missing their hearts.”  Not only do we, I fear, run the risk of missing their hearts, but of encouraging them to sin, as well.  When we are doing things because it’s what’s “right” – because it’s what everyone else is doing – it becomes sin.  Even if we do it with joy. Even if we are doing it to glorify God.

It is hard for me to understand that when I embrace a lifestyle choice, for the glory of God, that unless He is calling me to it, it’s still….well, it’s still poop in the crock pot. (Read previous blog!) It’s still legalism.  It’s still MY attempts to do what I think is right to please God.  He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light – this means I need to be on my guard for legalism seeping into my life to make me want to put on the heavy burden of comparison and attempt to garner favor in the sight of God or man.  It’s the righteousness of Christ ALONE that will gain me that favor. Are we seeking the favor of men, or of God? If we are still striving to please men, we would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Gal.1:10)

Having said that, I want to re-emphasize that there are lifestyle choices that we will make – modesty being one (COME ON – I have 6 daughters in a belly-button piercing, bust-enhancing, thong-revealing world!) but our desire is that those outward choices would be made based on the state of their inner hearts, rather than just a focus of impressing man. (Besides, they’re MY children – the apples don’t fall too far from the tree – it won’t take too long for anyone to see the stubborn, opinionated, prideful tendencies and the masks will fall away, impressing man won’t last for very long around here.)

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