If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: “I could never home school MY kids . . . Why in the world would anyone want to home school?” And every time I hear it, my heart grieves more and more. People tend to see only the inconvenience of it, the extra discipline it requires, the additional expenses, the intense personal involvement, the unappreciated sacrifices. How I wish they could see what my wife and I see—looking beyond the immediate hassles to a prize worth more than all it could require.
For several years I have pastored a small country church in southern Ohio. I love the things God has done in my life through this congregation of believers, but it has not been without some moments of intense pain. There have been many sleepless nights, many tears, and periods of heart breaking loneliness and abandonment. While there have been many times I wish I could quit, go somewhere else or go back to working a secular job, I have had to learn to trust God and rely more on facts than the dictations of my emotional state. I know that God called me into ministry. I know that He called me to this little church (my first and only), and I know that His work requires pain, toil, discipline and sacrifice. I know, too, that the ground must be tilled, seeds sown and crops maintained before the time of reaping and the in-gathering of the harvest.
No, it’s not always a bright picture, but bear with me for just a moment longer. You see, I’m discovering a secret in the dark threatening valleys that is not always evident in the brilliance of sunlight: People value those things which require the most personal sacrifice and endurance. Suffer through something and you communicate to others that it is worth the pain and agony to have it. Discard or leave something when times get tough, and you communicate that it held little value to you. A good shepherd gives his life for the sheep; a hireling sees the wolf coming and flees. Toiling in the wilderness over one lost sheep communicates more love and value than taking care of ninety-nine that are safe in the sheepfold.
Many patriots have fought for freedom, giving their lives, leaving their families, exchanging the comfortable and convenient for restlessness and vulnerability all because they believed that life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were a worthwhile cause. They were right.
The apostle Paul was beaten, put in stocks and unmercifully stoned. He suffered shipwreck, was robbed and suffered injustice at the hand of his own countrymen as well as the heathen. He experienced weariness, pain, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness. And beside those things that happened on the outside, he had to deal with the emotional and spiritual burdens of all the churches. Can you believe that, rather than give the poor guy a break, God went even further and gave him a “thorn in the flesh” too? How . . . or maybe I should ask, why in the world would Paul have chosen to continue in such a life? Something made it worth it.
How wonderful that Jesus Christ gave us such a clear and simple example of how to view the inconvenience, discipline, expense, involvement and sacrifice of worthy causes. He, “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame . . .” (Heb. 12:2) He had faith in the joy that would follow. He looked past the cross and into eternity. The glory His Father would receive was worth the suffering He had to endure.
Now, back to the issue at hand; why do my wife and I choose a form of education for our offspring that most others see as too demanding, too inconvenient, too constricting, too expensive?
First of all, this is not just an “education” issue, it is a lifestyle issue. Educating our children is just one aspect of the life we have chosen, or rather, have been called to. The Lord led our parents to raise us in church, involve us in missions, in sacrificial giving, and in the rigid discipline of our own Christian education. As we grew into adulthood we chose for ourselves these higher standards. It so happens that when you begin to yield to this mindset, it bleeds over into every other part of your life; your home, your parenting, your worship, and the use of your talents. You no longer evaluate your eternal priorities (or opportunities) in terms of what’s easier, what demands less time and effort, or what costs the least. You toil and strain at it because you are convinced the rewards God offers are worth it.
Secondly, you do it because you have been called to do it. Neither my wife nor I were home schooled. We had no experience in this realm. All we knew was that, however possible, we wanted to have the maximum amount of godly influence over our children’s education and character development. We sought, asked, and knocked. The answer and the means followed. There have been brief times of frustration in which we have considered discontinuing our home school. Those times were quickly countered with a confirmation that we have been called to do it and that God has blessed us with this opportunity and answered our prayers. It was for our good, our children’s good and for God’s glory.
This brings me to my third point; the desire to bring God glory. My wife and I have seen the Lord do great things through our family simply because we were willing to embrace discipline and endure hardship. Our heavenly Father has opened up many doors of opportunity to testify of His power, His love and His provision for us so that we may raise our children in the way of the Lord. Christ-centered education was not optional for our family. We wanted to glorify God by dedicating our children to Him and then follow up by raising them in His nurture and admonition. After all, we are His workmanship, created for His pleasure and our children are an heritage from Him. Surely He is worth the honor and glory.
My wife and I are committed to more than just an educational system. We are pressing “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Enroute to the “mark,” the “pressing” will include building godly relationships, passing our faith on to our children, developing biblical ministry, trust, respect, steadfastness, and Christlikeness; each requiring its own time and pressure. We believe it’s the method God uses to mature His saints. Moreover, our children are being convinced that—although Christ calls men to a difficult life—the blessings, power and joy He gives to those who choose it will abundantly surpass the challenges. The price isn’t too high, it’s not too inconvenient, the demands aren’t too rigorous, the involvement isntoo time consuming and the sacrifices aren’t too costly. For the “joy” that is set before us makes it all worth it!
Timothy Palla is the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in the Lucasville/Minford area of southern Ohio. He and his lovely wife, Jennifer, have five children: Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. They have been involved in home schooling for eleven years.
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