by Martha McClanahan
I am an avid lover of the author Jane Austen. She was a master at creating compelling characters. Novels such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility reveal the complexity and beauty of human nature through characters who remind us of ourselves: poignant, industrious, resolute, defiant, insipid, patient and loving, and sometimes just down right ridiculous! But Austen’s greatest gift is in showing the ironies, tensions, and contrasts in the human character. She is masterful in creating such conflict within her characters, that her novels strike her readers with awareness of their own inner conflicts. This awareness is priceless because it rarely happens to us; we do not often get to view our own contradictions. When we do, however, it can be life-changing.
Homeschooling has a way of revealing those ironies as well. As this school year began, several of our children faced new challenges. The level of difficulty in their curriculum had grown, and each of them faced discouragement at the outset. I met that parenting challenge with enthusiasm, encouraging them to lean on the Lord for the understanding and strength they would need. I told them that the new skills must be practiced, and that this would require diligence and patience. I assured them that it was okay to be “in between” their beginning and their success, and that there is a place for the process.
Simultaneously, I was experiencing my own uphill battles, managing the many changes in our established schedule, facing new obstacles that I hadn’t met before, and generally having my world turned upside down. Yet, I was not so gracious to myself. My thoughts centered on the clear lack of ease and peace I felt in response to the various changes in my own life. I was not achieving perfection, even though my reaction to my own difficulties was to expect perfection.
What God was asking for, however, was perseverance. Somewhere in my experience, I realized I had quit allowing for the time it takes to succeed at new challenges, or learn a new skill. Somewhere in my adulthood, I decided that the time for learning curves was over. I was a contradiction.
The life of a homeschooling parent can be challenging and chaotic. We have to be flexible because no two days, or even years, are alike. We may feel that some aspect of our lives is under control; we may even be doing quite well. But change is always lingering in the distance. It may be an unexpected surgery for a son, a gluten-free diet for a daughter, a new job, or a move across the country. It may be the care of an elderly parent, a new baby, or any one of a million life-altering circumstances. From year to year, little remains constant in the ebb and flow of life. Like our children, sometimes we find that the difficulty of our “lessons” is ramped up! We have never done anything quite so hard! Yet God’s grace reaches out to us and upholds us. When we can’t quite find our footing, He lifts us. When we are vulnerable and scared that maybe this is all just a bit too much, He is a friend of all friends. He encourages us to “press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14) that we may “finish the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Whatever changes God is bringing in my life and in yours, there is room for the process. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…” (James 1:4). Perseverance is not perfection. It is caring enough to try. It is the grace of God…the hope we have in Christ.
Our perfection will someday be a robe of righteousness, but for today, we can rest in that place between beginning and success, trusting that we serve a God who is able to supply every need.
Martha is learning perseverance alongside her husband, Jason, and their five precious children: Phoebe, Charlotte, Rebekah, Matthias, and Toby. The McClanahans are CHEWV members who homeschool and reside in beautiful Putnam County.