(**I wrote this article years ago when I first started blogging. That blog is a distant memory after Homeschool Blogger disappeared and reemerged as something quite different. Finding a paper copy over the weekend motivated me to add it to this little blog ‘o mine. I hope others find it encouraging.**)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
While the fear of the LORD should be our only view of fear, more often than not, we tend to lean more toward Noah Webster’s description of the term which can be used as either a noun or a verb. According to Mr. Webster, fear is “a painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil or the apprehension of impending danger. Fear expresses less apprehension than dread, and dread less than terror and fright. The force of this passion, beginning with the most moderate degree, may be thus expressed, fear, dread, terror, fright. Fear is accompanied with a desire to avoid or ward off the expected evil. Fear is an uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of future evil likely to befall us. Anxiety.” These definitions of fear are all expressions for the saddening secret hidden within the home schooling community.
This “uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of future evil likely to befall us” is precisely why so many home schooling mothers find themselves and their children burned out or giving up on home education despite feeling called by God to this very purpose. Many never even begin the process based on their expectation of the worst. This secret fear turns to dread, based on exaggerated feelings. Because feelings are based on these emotions or passions, we must recognize that there is a real possibility that we have misinterpreted our own expectations. Our apprehensions are unwarranted if we remember the real truth about fear.
Nevertheless, once fear turns to dread, we either give up or avoid diligently pursuing that which we believe God has intended for our families. Guilt weighs down on top of the dread. Because we are avoiding the very thing we know we should do, procrastination drags the hours into long, dreary, worry filled days and nights resulting in the real possibility of terror and fright. After all, what if the relatives, friends, neighbors, school district, or other home schoolers find out that we’re not doing what we intended to do in the first place? All of the “Theys” begin to close in on us inside our misunderstood emotions.
Sleepless nights, stress filled days, and endless comparisons made with the imagined success of others wear on home school moms until the point of fatigue. It is interesting to note that Webster defines fatigue as “weariness with bodily labor or mental exertion; lassitude or exhaustion of strength. We suffer fatigue of the mind as we as of the body.” With little sleep and little accomplished by avoiding the failure we fear, we are bound to reach a point of exhaustion. The feared failure then becomes a reality.
In our fearfulness, we forget that in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” We are so concerned with the load we bear for ourselves and our children that we fail to recognize that we have conceived our own downfall by neglecting to believe that God knows what’s in our best interest. The resulting failure is an embarrassment that may remain hidden from others, but not from ourselves, or God.
Failure is found with numerous definitions in Webster’s 1828 version of the American Dictionary of the English Language. “To become deficient; to be insufficient; to cease to be abundant for supply; or to be entirely wanting. To decay; to decline; to sink; to be diminished; to become weaker. To be extinct; to cease; to be entirely wanting; to be no longer produced. To be entirely exhausted; to be wanting. To perish; to be lost. To die. To miss; not to produce the effect. To be deficient in duty; to omit or neglect. To miscarry; to be frustrated or disappointed. To be neglected; to fall short; not to be executed. To become insolvent or bankrupt.” Any of these descriptions can be used to express the reality facing many home schooling mothers who find they are at the end of themselves.
This dreaded failure, based on sometimes well-established disobedience, is actually the best place we can find ourselves if we truly want to enjoy wisdom and understanding and pass that on to our children. In the middle of failure we finally recognize the most important truth about fear that we’d forgotten to remember. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” The fear of not being able to teach our children to read and write is not the beginning of wisdom. It is instead foolishness. “Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The fear of not being able to instill in our children an understanding of math, science, or a foreign language is not the kind of understanding for which we should strive. In true understanding’s place, ignorance is instead displayed.
Once we come to recognize these truths during real or imagined times of failure, we are touching the edge of true freedom found only in His intended plan for our lives. Webster defined freedom in wonderful terms. Freedom is “a state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Particular privileges; franchise; immunity. Power of enjoying franchises. Exemption from fate, necessity, or any constraint in consequence of predetermination or otherwise. Any exemption from constraint or control. Ease or facility of doing any thing. Frankness; boldness.”
Wanting to encourage our children to develop wisdom and understanding through an education at home takes only one kind of fear. Fatigue will result if the fear of the LORD is absent from the equation in home education. The result of this will surely be failure. But, we must take heart! We can find freedom from the fear of everything else. We must use the freedom God has intended for us through home schooling. I Peter 2:16 reminds us to “act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” He has supplied this freedom for us in order to serve His purposes, not our own.
With the many freedoms that Texas home schoolers enjoy, there is a true need to develop a determined diligence to follow through on God’s plan for our families. While we may view success as a certain test score, ability, or level of achievement, God may have another plan of action that He must use in order to show us His will for our lives and for our children. When we follow His lead through obedience, He supplies the ways, means, and end that He requires for His plans.
We hope for success. This success cannot be seen from afar. Quite possibly God does not intend for us to visualize the success for which we hope, or even as it should be due to our inability to align our definition of success with His own. He frees us from our own agenda by allowing our failure to ensure and insure our success. He allows and provides for our weaknesses in order to use our strengths unhindered by pride.
The British writer, G.K. Chesterton said, “To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school.” He knew, as do we, that according to I Corinthians 1:27, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” In our avoidance or termination of home schooling based on the wrong kind of fear, we are displaying foolishness and shame. It is the result of not believing that God knows what’s best no matter the end result.
God longs to provide freedom for us without fear, fatigue, or failure. It is time for us to embrace that freedom by remembering that Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Failure is weakness. Fear of anything other than God is weakness. We should agree with Paul and say, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Fear ignites a spark that follows a fuse toward fatigue and failure. The fireworks of freedom explode the split second we fail. Fail, and fail boldly! Failure is the birthplace of freedom to succeed for God’s purposes! Like little children we can sing, “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong!” He uses our failure to give us the courage to humbly remember as John 8:32 insists that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free!” Let’s “clean up” home schooling’s secret and restore it for His success!
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my rock and Redeemer.” Psalm 19:9-14
References are not part of any affiliate program. Enjoy!
American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster
New American Standard Master Study Bible