As I was writing this article, I received the automated and dreaded phone call: "The school district will begin transitioning to distance learning as of November 16, 2020."
We had attempted homeschooling once before this year. It was a short stint and worked well while we were in the process of moving. But once we got settled, I realized that it was not for my family for several reasons. Homeschooling is a beautiful option, but it was not for us. When we decided to quit, I asked my husband the same questions repeatedly: "Are we doing the right thing?' Did we do the right thing when we made the initial decision to homeschool? How bad did I set the kids back by trying out homeschooling?"
While I had my undies in a bundle, his response was matter-of-fact. Each time he simply replied, "They are resilient."
Out loud, I said, "Ugh. I don't want them to HAVE to be resilient." And in my head, I thought, "I especially don't want them to HAVE to be resilient because of me."
This past Spring, when schools shut down during the initial wave of COVID-19 cases, the same questions and fears arose again. But this time, I had less questions and more statements:
"I'm going to screw them up for sure."
"They are going to be behind because I am teaching them."
"How is this going to affect their future years in school?"
This week, we are once again back to figuring out school from home, and my concern is not just for my kids. I am also concerned for myself as I juggle regular schedules, daily demands, and now, education.
I'm concerned about my mental health and theirs.
I fret about the long term effects of social distancing and mask-wearing on my kids.
I dread breaking up fights, constantly cooking meals, and surviving with these people who live and eat like raccoons.
I have no idea how to keep my home together when we are all here all the time.
And I have a headache from the number of decisions I make daily.
It's important to call a thing what it is, and this is hard. I don't want to admit to you, myself, my kids, or my neighbor that I am struggling with this.
I also don't want my kids to have to go through hard things. I want to mitigate the uncomfortable, hurtful, and painful things that may happen in their lives. While we do not want to be a source of pain for our children, there will be times when we fail and hurt them. There will be times when my selfishness or stupidity will put them in harm's way.
I have never thought of myself as a helicopter parent. However, that does not mean I am immune from hovering over my kids.
Recently, our boys have started wrestling competitively, and this experience has taught me a lot about the importance of resilience - both literally and metaphorically. Watching them compete has made me acutely aware of how little I want any of my kids to get hurt or even be in uncomfortable situations. Of course, it's important to protect our kids, yet even our heavenly Father came not to eliminate suffering but embrace it.
On the wrestling mat, our boys learn new moves, but they also learn about perseverance, how to be physically and emotionally uncomfortable, and how to shake your opponent's hand, whether you win or lose. Time in that stinky wrestling room has forced me not to interfere when my kids get in a tricky spot and are uncomfortable because they are stuck, made a wrong move, or are on the brink of giving up. If I rush out onto the mat to pry another kid off of my kid, it's not going to end well.
Off of the wrestling mat, I know that I can let my kids wrestle with my failings because I am not their savior. I can let them wrestle with their own weaknesses because their salvation is secure in their Baptismal promise. I can let them wrestle with the rejection of friends because Christ suffered from the same. I can let them wrestle with the unknowns and fears of distance learning because Christ works all things for the good.
We are not the first to wrestle with God. Jacob also wrestled with God. At face value, wrestling with God may sound like a terrible idea. Of course, he is stronger, smarter, and more powerful than us. Why would we even think to engage in a wrestling match with our Creator?
We wrestle with God because he is for us. He is always working for us, even when we are wrestling against or with him. Jacob prevailed in that wrestling match, and God blessed him. But Jacob's strength did not earn him the win or the blessing. Instead, it was the unconditional love of God and his desire to work on Jacob's behalf that secured the win and blessing.
In Romans, Paul also talks about this process of wrestling in the Christian life.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:1-6)
Life includes suffering that we will have to endure. Life will not go as planned nor as we would hope, but "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
We have been justified. We have peace with God because of the work of Jesus Christ. We can stand and rejoice despite our circumstances. Our hope is secure. As we trust that this promise is true for ourselves, we can also trust that it is true for our children.
As much as I don't want my kids to have experiences where resilience and perseverance are necessary, chances are life will not be all rainbows and unicorns each day of their lives. I have no idea what they will come up against in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years.
Since the fall, life has been a struggle, and yet we struggle not without hope. We can open our Bibles together and be reminded over and over again that God is at work for us. When we read the stories of the Old Testament - including the stories of both Jacob and Moses - we see Christ at work and know he is at work in our lives too.
While Jacob wrestled with God in a physical match, Moses wrestled with God through words. Moses was called by God and did not want to go. God didn't give him a motivational speech and say, "You've got this, you are enough, you deserve a Gold star." Instead, he told Moses that there is no need to worry because I AM, and I AM is the one who made the mouth you will speak with and the words you will use (Ex 3:1-4:12).
My secure hope in Christ means that I don't have to pretend to keep it all together as we enter this new season
While we have no idea what the future holds for our kids and we can neither prepare nor shield them for every hardship that will come their way, we can, like a broken record, point them to Christ.
That secure hope that Romans talks about is what allows us all as children of God to wrestle on and off the mat, literally and figuratively. (To clarify, I'm never getting in a singlet, nor will I ever tell a gym full of people how much I weigh).
My secure hope in Christ means that I don't have to pretend to keep it all together as we enter this new season. When necessary, I can admit my weaknesses to my children and point them to the sufficiency of Christ.
Because of Christ's work for us, instead of reading the Bible with my kids in an attempt to manipulate them into good behavior, we can open our Bibles together and marvel at the way he saves and redeems even the worst of sinners.
Instead of ignoring their failures, I can encourage confession and freely give them absolution. Instead of downplaying suffering, I can recognize suffering as a result of sin and remind them that Christ came and suffered just as we did. And on and on the list goes, for Christ's sufficiency in times of trial means that we don't have to rely on our own resilience to sustain us.
My kids will fail, and I will fail them. They will feel strong, they will feel weak, and we will continue to live through circumstances both good, hard, and unknown. In all time, places, and spaces, the best I can do is remind them God's love has been poured into their hearts.