As a homeschooling parent, one of my greatest hopes is that my children flourish. By this I mean that I want them to grow in Christ and find fulfillment in learning about His creation. I learned early on that the only way that could happen is if their teacher wasn’t a big, lazy, sour puss. If I’m not growing in Christ, if I don’t find fulfillment in learning and teaching about His creation, that will infect our homeschool and make our efforts fruitless. My heart has to be right or there will be a slurry of bilge that comes from my mouth.
This must be a common problem among homeschoolers because I recently read a blog post over at Heart of the Matter. The author believes you should never say three things as a homeschooler: “I’m behind”; “I can’t do this”; and “I’m not doing enough”.
This got me to thinking about the source of this language. She seems to believe that these phrases are lies that we believe and if we remove this language from our vocabulary, that it will change our state of mind and thereby improve our homeschool experience. That starts with a premise that the mouth controls the heart. But is that really true? Do I only have to remove a few phrases to accomplish my goal of children who flourish in my homeschool? Does my mouth control my actions?
Jesus says in Matthew 15:18, “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” He clearly identifies the heart as the source of what comes from our mouth, not our mouth as the source of the condition of our heart. If I stopped saying, “I’m behind,” would that somehow take my guilt away about being behind? Not according to Jesus.
It’s our heart that tells us we should feel guilty, that we can’t, that we should do better. So if we start with that premise, that our heart controls the mouth, it is clear that our heart needs to be examined, not our mouth.
As a homeschooling parent, I can specifically relate to falling behind. It seems that every time I turn around I’m adjusting our schedule for one reason or another. I don’t see anything inherently wrong about saying “I’m behind” if that is the truth. Public school teachers fall behind in their plans all the time. Daddies fall behind at work. Everyone falls behind sometimes. We are really good at making plans and then not following them or thinking that we are in control of them in the first place. So what is the big deal about me saying, “I’m behind”? It’s a common human condition. I believe that what is important is that we allow God to expose why we fell behind and determine if that is a legitimate reason or if it is rooted in sin.
Before we examine our heart we need to first acknowledge another truth. Grace is a gift of God, not something that you can earn or provide to yourself. Even in this situation, you are seeking mercy, forgiveness, and freedom from guilt. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Unfortunately, the author is pointing to herself as the source of authority and grace. She judges that the statement “I’m behind”, or the others, are lies which affect her state of mind. She can stop believing those lies if she stops repeating them. In other words, if she changes her words, she will change herself, and have nothing to feel guilty about. That is not logical at all! First, it isn’t a lie to say you are behind. If are following a schedule and you don’t keep up with it, then you are behind. It doesn’t mean it was wrong for you to fall behind; it simply means you fell behind. What we won’t know without examination is if those reasons for falling behind were legitimate or sinful. If all we do is stop saying a phrase it’s just avoiding the examination. By following this process, she is actually not only avoiding the examination, but also avoiding the opportunity to receive grace. She thinks she is giving herself grace by just not speaking lies, but that isn’t real grace. That isn’t real freedom from guilt. Even if for a time she feels better, guilt will surly raise its ugly head again.
It is GOD who is the source of all grace, all mercy, and all that is good. It is He who will change you! That gives me great comfort. I’m terrible at changing myself. I can’t stay on a diet for more than a month, why would I think I could stop speaking 3 phrases? But thankfully, God is faithful to keep His promises for eternity.
So now that we understand that it is the heart that controls the mouth and that it is God who can free us from guilt our next step is to ask God to create that clean heart. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” We can pray that exact verse and apply it to any situation in our life. Ask Him to examine and change your heart. Then trust Him to do so through His Word, His Body, and His Spirit.
Let God reveal whether your excuses are legitimate. There will be times when you will fall behind and then need to adjust your plans. There will be times when you can’t do something yourself and need to seek help. There are times when you won’t have done enough and maybe need to adjust plans to do more. Agreeing to never say “I’m behind” or “I can’t” or “I’m not doing enough” can lead to unaddressed sin because it avoids the truth.
You might be thinking that this seems pretty spiritually heavy for just trying to improve our outlook on our homeschooling efforts. Let me assure you that Satan enjoys nothing more than separating you from God, even on the small stuff. He will find the chink in your armor and exploit it. What seemed like a small thing can turn into a huge problem if not addressed. In this case, the chink is that you are trading His grace for your law in an attempt to be freed from guilt. Thankfully, in Christ, yes, we can even be freed of guilt from falling behind in homeschooling!
I’m sure the author of this article intends well. She seems like a person who has a passion for supporting homeschoolers. I really appreciate that about her. There are many times in my life when I have had similar thoughts. If I take control, I can fix it. Through the Gospel I've been made aware that no matter how hard I work, grace isn't mine to give, change isn't mine to make. God is in control of these things and he wants me to acknowledge his control of these things so that I can be drawn closer to Him. Being aware of what is coming out of our mouths is very helpful though, but you must dig deeper. You must ask God to reveal sin in your heart and change your heart if you want your homeschool to flourish in the future. That's what you can do. Just changing the way you speak won’t get the job done.