A Battle We Must Surrender
By Sheila Campbell
“Have you heard from your son?” At first I didn‘t hear the concern in the voice of our youth pastor‘s wife and I just assumed he had done something fun or exciting and she was calling to see if I had heard the news. When she told me that he had left during the evening service to take a bathroom break and had never returned to the group, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
The youth from our church were at a national fine arts competition in a large city more than 1,500 miles away. She tried to reassure me that everything was probably fine and that he had just been separated from the group. However, the youth pastor had been unable to reach my son on his phone, so they just wanted to tell me that if I heard from him, instruct him to stay put and let them know his location.
Long hours passed, and what had started out as concern had become intensifying alarm. When the local authorities asked if he might be a runaway, it was not even considered a possibility. All who knew him considered him a responsible teen, a good kid, and he was well liked by his peers. He wouldn‘t run away; after all, he was homeschooled.
Unable to reach him via cell phone and with no sign of where he had gone, a parent‘s worst fear was unfolding with the deepening dark. Slowly the night passed and morning dawned, and eighteen hours later a wayward and repentant teen called his youth pastor and confessed to having planned his disappearance in the metropolis. Within a few hours, I was on a plane to fetch my prodigal son.
His actions came as a shocking surprise to family, friends, and our church members not because he was a Christian but because he was homeschooled, which led many, including myself, to believe he was incapable of such outrageous behavior. How could a child who had been given a steady diet of Biblical instruction since he was a baby rebel so openly? My high expectations had blinded me to a hurting child, a child struggling with rebellion and sin.
It was one of the most painful incidents I had ever experienced as a parent. However, looking back, I am deeply grateful for that eye-opening event, because it not only revealed the wounded heart of my son but it also revealed some simple truths to which my pride had blinded me. A. W. Tozer writes: “There are some imperfections you never lose until you have suffered. You will never know some truths until you have suffered either in your heart or in your body or both and some mysteries you will never understand until you have carried the cross and fallen under it.”1 I was not only hurt and disappointed; I was embarrassed, and my embarrassment exposed a self-centered heart.
When I began homeschooling, I thought I was making a selfless commitment to my children, but I was also indulging self. As I gained confidence in my ability to teach my children, I began to think—or hope—that I could raise children who were morally and perhaps even intellectually superior to their public school peers (very hard to admit, even to myself, but a reality nonetheless). When my choice to homeschool was questioned by Christian friends, I was willing to endure temporary criticism because I believed my decisions would eventually be validated by Godly young men and women who loved the Lord and accomplished great things in the Christian community. Of course, as a Christian parent I was legitimately concerned about my children‘s relationship with God and I wanted them to desire to love and serve the Lord, but the time and attention I thought I was sacrificing solely in the best interests of my children was also a self-centered sacrifice. Although I might not have recognized my selfish motives, deep within my heart I knew the success of my children would also be perceived as my personal success within the homeschool and Christian community.
God is good in all things, and I am thankful that He gives me the desires of my heart and is sovereign over them even when they are corrupted by my sinful nature. I am thankful for a gracious and loving God Who used those desires for good in both my life and the lives of my children, despite my prideful, selfish nature. I am thankful He kept my son safe during that long night and used that terrifying event to open my eyes to the battle raging for the heart of my children—a battle I arrogantly thought I had avoided by homeschooling them. I realized that although homeschooling can be a major stronghold of defense in the battle for the heart of our children and God certainly uses it for good, homeschooling does not inoculate our children against temptation, sin, and a heart focused on self.
Our children are born with a heart focused on self, and the battle for control of their heart begins at birth. It is a battle that we as parents cannot win. It is a battle we must surrender to the Lord, for though we may be able to restrain our children‘s actions, guide their decisions, and mentor their hearts, we cannot manage “self” for them, i.e., the sinful nature that is always internally focused. In fact, I was not much help to my children until I recognized how much the battle raged in my own life and that I could not fight it on my own. I am resigned to say as Paul said in Romans 7:15, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” It is only through God‘s grace that I am ever able to take captive those thoughts that continually tempt me to focus on selfish interests. It is a battle that I fight daily. Often, the motivations behind my actions place “self” right in the middle, but I am thankful for the trials that have helped me take an honest look at myself. There are things about my home, my children, my classroom, and my life that I never would never known if all had been perfect and good. I am thankful that God used homeschooling and my children to open my heart to truth and that He continues to mold and shape us as we all endeavor to serve Him.
Sheila Campbell began homeschooling in 1991, and after the death of her husband in 2001, she homeschooled as a single parent. She also was the parent of a special needs child whom she cared for at home until his death in 2004. These difficulties have strengthened her walk with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and it is her prayer that her words will encourage and inspire others. Sheila resides in Hale Center, Texas, and recently left her job with the Texas Home School Coalition to pursue her writing goals. Sheila invites you to visit her blog at www.pausingtopraise.wordpress.com .
1. A Disruptive Faith by A. W. Tozer.
Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.