I read to the boys this morning from Genesis: ‘Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.’’ (Genesis 12:1). Much later in the Bible, in the letter to the Hebrews, this is commented upon. ‘By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.’ (Hebrews 11:8-9). Other references remind us to live our lives here cautiously, as strangers and pilgrims whose true home is in heaven.
We spoke of these verses today as we were moving on again, having spent the past four months living in a different city. It seems that over the past few years we have been called to move on several occasions. Sometimes there has been a very clear purpose, such as short-term overseas mission work. This time, it was more for the practical reason of living closer to our workplaces (both my husband and I had been placed several hours away from our home, but quite close to one another). Whilst we had felt confident that God was guiding us to settle in the neighbourhood for these months, it was also a difficult few months. Which led me to reflect on the experience... Does difficulty mean that it was not right? I recently read a study that suggested that we are part of a generation which expects instant results, instant gratification, instant reassurance. Apparently the craving for ‘likes’ on Facebook is similar to that induced in lab rats exposed to pleasant or noxious stimuli. And to an extent, in our spiritual lives too, do we come to desire, to expect, to be disappointed in the absence of immediate results? Sometimes, perhaps more often than we realise, we don’t fully understand why God led us down a certain path. There can be times when we feel strongly called to a particular course of action, but are not rewarded by affirmation that this was indeed the right thing to do. This is where faith comes in. God does not change, although everything around us may do. He is not like a man, who changes and can be inconsistent. My boys love to sing, ‘Yesterday, today, forever Jesus is the same. All may change but Jesus never, glory to His name!’ and that is truth. I don’t fully know why we made this move, and certainly it didn’t seem as rewarding or fulfilling as other short term moves have done. But that does not mean it was not right, and does not mean that God did not use the time well.
One huge advantage in home education is that we can easily move from one place to the next. Each is simply a new set of adventures, of opportunities, of resources, a new world to explore. And so, for these past four months, we have explored some beautiful country parks which were a short walk from our house, have completed a full term of Spanish lessons in the next village, we have enjoyed fellowship in a different church, we have had a garden to run free in. I love to watch how they embrace each new home as a fresh page, an adventure waiting to happen, a delight. Sometimes I wonder when I lost that childlike enthusiasm! Yet another great thing about home educating is that we get to share their delight in living, and see the world through unjaded eyes.
Often I pray that they do not lose that energy. Another reason we are grateful they are not in the mainstream education sector is that we have seen how quickly children become bored, or come to see school or learning as dull and uninteresting. It is frightening to see how rapidly bright eyed lively children become tired of the pace and structure of the classroom. Yes, I might over-generalise at this point, and I know there is huge diversity within both children as individuals and educational establishments. And some children are spurred on towards excellence, discovery, to delight in gaining understanding of the world in which they are placed. Just I believe that can be best achieved through allowing them the freedom to develop and explore at their own pace and in line with their own interests.
But back to today’s lesson, where I started this reflection. I pray that whatever happens, that they will grow with a worldview which understands that this world, with all its beauty and splendour, is not their final destiny, is not their true home. I pray that as they start to see pain, suffering and ugliness as well as the glories of creation, that they will understand this is simply a consequence of a fallen universe, but that one day there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and everything will be made new.
As the writer to the Hebrews continued, having discussed Abraham and many other men and women of faith, ‘and all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set out for us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 11: 39-12:2).