There are books such as the one titled, The Hurried Child, and documentaries such as Race to Nowhere, which address the same concern – a pace of life that steals more life than it offers in the end. I recently read a children’s book (to my children) entitled Henry Hikes to Fitchburg about Henry David Thoreau as a bear making his way to Fitchburg. He and his friend agree to “race” with Henry choosing to start right away and hike while his friend stays back to work and earn money to travel by train. Along the way Henry picks and eats blackberries, climbs trees, goes for a swim and enjoys all the varied scenery. His friend at home paints and cleans and works to make enough money to hop on the train. His friend gets there not too far ahead, but wins the race. That is ok with Henry because he really enjoyed those blackberries.
I really admire Henry. I am more naturally like his friend. Winning is too important to me. It is why you don’t hear me mention the “h” word on my blog much at all. It embarrasses me because it is not what winners do, at least not from my racing, hurrying, competitive perspective. It is seeming to me that this is the very reason God has me at home, “schooling” my children but really, as the one being the most schooled in the end.
Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ” Mark 5:29-31
Jesus and his disciples were on their way, in a hurry, to heal a little girl whose father was terrified would die. It turns out, this delay resulted in their arrival after her death. But Jesus did not act according to the demands of circumstances. Jesus was never controlled by the loudest demand nor fear of a ball (or bird) dropping to the ground. Jesus does not run in response to any threat, His course was never determined by fear of failure, loss or regret. I, on the other hand, am enslaved to an internal hamster wheel that won’t stop spinning. Like some sort of scene in a 1950’s horror movie, my “camera” flashes rapidly from terrifying scene to terrifying scene of the tasks and people that demand my attention, never landing calmly on any one of them.
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matt. 10:28-30
No unfinished task terrorized Jesus. He was not ruled by tasks or urgent time lines, but only by His commitment to His Father, apart from whom He would do nothing. Jesus attended to the woman on the ground right in front of him. Her healing and her faith were as important as anyone else’s in all of creation. She mattered. He stopped. Just like that. Jesus was present in the moment, each moment, with each person. Jesus was not drawing all men to an institution, or level of achievement, or inner circle of elite positions or rapidly marching army to fall in with and keep pace. He was drawing all men, women and children to Himself. He became a person for His people. And for this reason, He could stop and He invites me into this glorious stop with Him.
It is my lack of faith which resists this stop. I know what the achievement culture offers, and it is not all bad. I know where the movers and shakers go, and it is nice. Awards received at honors day and accolades in the paper and associations with others who wear the same stickers on their rear car windows feels really good. The race is familiar and doable and in many ways, certain. Being in the race, at the very least, guarantees a t-shirt and a finisher’s medal and entry into next year’s race.
God has removed me from this race, for what I hope is only a moment, and I am still perplexed about it. But I do already see His redemption in this: my attention deficit is beginning to diminish. It is beginning to decrease because He is finally persuading me I cannot attend to every demand at the same time and must choose only one at a time. He is also beginning to humanize me again (just barely, mind you) by warming my heart to the value of people as being greater than the value of my accomplishments. Now don’t go too crazy in your admiration, because at this point I’ll still throw my children under a bus to make sure my house looks pretty when you come over. But He is changing this priority, a teeny tiny bit, one step at a time.
The question still hits a raw place when people ask, “How is homeschooling going?” because there is no satisfying (and truthful) answer that I can give that will leave me looking like a winner to the one asking the question. Ellie is not learning decimals yet like her classmates at Westminster and we haven’t done a science experiment or maybe even used the word science yet. We do well to get in a focused 1-2 hours of what would look like formal education a day…and those are the days I let everyone know, “We’ve had a GREAT day today!” I can’t seem to keep the clean laundry put away and I never did finish painting the kitchen and half of the dining room wall. My children are missing the banter of the lunchroom, the creative interactions and games on the playground and won’t be in the beautiful Christmas program which is more professionally executed than most high school musicals. Those realities make the competitive, hurried, racing me panic and feel condemned.
But I am listening to them more. I am getting to know them better. I am seeing how little I have loved them in the past as their humanity was interfering with my achievement goals. My hamster wheel is slowing down and maybe, eventually, it will stop. By faith, He is helping me to press less and pray more. My security in Him will one day be such that I can answer that question about homeschooling with delight rather than an insecure roll of the eyes and reputation protecting “I’m not one of those” types kind of answer. So, while it looks like we probably won’t be the first to Fitchburg, we’re beginning to slow down and enjoy the views, climb a few more trees, and enjoy eating blackberries together. And it turns out, those blackberries really are delicious.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:22-32