Monday, October 29, 2012

Not to fiddle around with the truth

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Early in our homeschooling career, I was expecting a visit from the home education officer and had to fill out loads of paperwork. By then, we'd been living our dream long enough to have acquired a laid-back, interest-driven, passion-led approach which suited us. However, I thought it very dissimilar to the education mode I was used to and brought up in. Our former education officer had recently retired. This lady would be new and I was nervous to think that we might come across flaky and scatter-brained. I didn't want to be rebuked and the possibility of the kids being sent back to school was enough to give me cold chills. Logan had just shed his anxious persona and seemed content while Emma had the space to pursue her varied interests. All the while, the new baby, Blake, had the benefit of having his siblings always around, bonding with him at all hours of the day. I didn't want this threatened.

I resorted to a dishonest tactic I'd sometimes used at school or uni when I had a tedious assignment to work on. I call it "Give 'em what they want to hear." In other words, I fudged some of what I wrote. Shame on me. I preferred to call it exaggerating. I assumed she'd probably want to think that we did lots of bookwork and formal lessons. This is what I wrote spades of in the report. My intention was to mislead her to think we did far more than we actually did.

When she came, she sipped her cup of tea, read the report and said something I never saw coming. She rebuked me for working them too hard! Yeah, me! "This is all very commendable, but don't go down the track of taking all the fun and joy out of learning. In my opinion, that takes the gloss off what homeschooling should be all about. You seem to be taking it all far too seriously."

I was mortified. By then, I'd written the report. I was committed to the truth-stretching I'd told. I couldn't retreat and tell her that, in fact, I was as big an advocate of the natural learning approach as she could hope to find. I wished I'd been honest and open in my true feelings. It was a major backfiring of what I'd thought were good intentions. That was a good lesson that being true to ourselves is the only path we should take, no matter what benefits the less-than-honest approach may seem to bring.

At least I wasn't punished as severely as that poor young messenger who ran to report the battle deaths of King Saul and his sons to David. His story is found at the very start of the Book of 2Samuel. David pressed him for details, asking, "How do you know for sure that Saul and Jonathan are dead?" On the spur of the moment, this young soldier decided that a bit of opportunistic embellishing of the truth might be to his own advantage. "I just happened by Mt Gilboa and came on Saul, badly wounded... 'Come here' he said, 'and put me out of my misery'... So I did what he asked and killed him. Here's his royal headband and bracelet for my master."

Anybody who's read the real story will blink at this point, and think, "Hey, what? He did no such thing! Saul fell on his own sword when his armor bearer refused to kill him. What's this fellow going on about?"

I understood his thinking. He'd hoped to gain. Telling David that he'd driven a sword through his nemesis was intended to be a sound move earning him respect and promotion, however undeserved. He'd probably intended to use it as a harmless stepping stone. Little did he know how horribly this would backfire on him. He had no idea of David's history with Saul and his family and his true feelings about them, much less what was in his heart. Horrified, David demanded, "Do you mean to say that you weren't afraid to kill God's anointed king?" He ordered one of his soldiers, "Strike him dead! You asked for it. You sealed your death sentence when you said you killed God's anointed king." So he never had the chance to regret his mistake.

Much better to be straightforward at all times, showing the world the same person who we are in our own homes and deep inside our own hearts. Second guessing people is a risky game, because only God and they themselves know for certain how they are going to react. When we show our true faces, we may earn the unpopularity and rebukes we are hoping to avoid. This has happened to me, but I've decided it's preferable to living lies. I got sick of knowing deep inside that the person who is being smiled upon is not the real me but a mask I'm wearing. It's much more peaceful to know that when we being approved of, it is for the truth. I prefer saving my inventions for my fiction these days. I think embellishments are a bit like egg yolk when you're making pavlova or macarons. Only a tiny bit can ruin the whole thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

That my lock is secure

I like the luxury of an occasional soak in the bath tub. We have two at our new house. One is a normal tub and the other is a proper spa bath which will hold four people. The spa takes ages to fill and is a real treat for special occasions when a few of us get on our bathers. Most times I just hop into the standard bath. With a good book, a nice drink to sip, a few drops of lavender oil and some Radox or bubbles, it makes a pretty good poor-woman's retreat.

I always lock the door so that other family members don't burst in on me, particularly my 22-year-old nephew and 17-year-old son. This precaution is as much for their sakes as mine, I assure you. Occasionally I'll hear them rattle the door, realise it's locked and then head off elsewhere.

So it occurred to me that although the lock is just a tiny piece of metal I slide across, I completely trust it. I can lie back and relax. If it was at all dodgy or unpredictable, I wouldn't bother having baths at all. (I'm not suggesting I wouldn't be clean. I'd just have showers in my en-suite where the boys never go.) Even a placard warning, KEEP OUT! I'M IN HERE, wouldn't give me as much peace of mind as the lock. I'd be on edge all the time, ready to swoop a towel off the rack and cry out, "I'm in here! Can't you read?" What would be the point of trying to relax if you can't relax?

I began thinking about other things which I declare I put complete trust in. Especially God's love and care of me and the promises I find in the Bible, which I believe is His unbreakable contract with anyone daring enough to take what they read at face value. We are told that He cherishes us as individuals, has provided for us to be blessed and healed and has unique paths marked out for each of us which He will guide us onto. Furthermore, when things appear pear-shaped in the here-and-now, we are promised that it's not the entire picture and that all things will be made to work out for good.

In years gone by, I used to 'talk the talk' without believing it deep enough in my heart to 'walk the walk.' I'd get stressed out, do my block, cry and worry that I'd come to a bad end, or that horrible things might happen to the people I love. My body would show signs of stress such as excessive fatigue, tight muscles, internal disorders and hormonal problems. It's different now. I've figured out that when God says something is true, my job is to accept this without doubting. My 'lock' is secure. Instead of living life as if I'm in the bath tub and somebody is going to burst in on me at any moment, I can trust that His promises will remain secure and enjoy the journey.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

To not break my toys

I often hear this statement from honest people and have wondered about it myself at times. "Christians state that we live under freedom now, instead of the law. That's hypocrisy because there are still so many laws given to us that we must obey. Don't look at this website, don't listen to that music, don't have a relationship with this person and don't dress in those clothes. We call ourselves free but we're still under the thumb and that's just delusional and crazy."

I understand where they are coming from because in the past, I've been made sad and confused by people who sweep into my place and say, "You shouldn't let your son watch these popular cartoons because they're evil and God will remove His blessing from your family," or "You shouldn't write fiction because it's vanity." (Little do they know.) I think these people, who honestly have good intentions, don't realise that they are misrepresenting God's nature and plans for us. These Ned Flanders type of Christians may drive honest seekers to say this sort of thing. "God is the same as the Pharisees. He's a killjoy who wants to sap our fun and freedom. What's the point of moving from one boss to another? I'm my own person."

I've grappled with all this and decided that the confusion lies in the fact that the word "rules" is one of those with two different meanings. First, there are "rules" which some dictator imposes, Hitler style, with the message, If these aren't adhered to, I'm gonna punish you big time! But the second meaning is more to do with principles and the natural laws of cause and effect. If this action happens, this result will transpire, so it's in your own best interest not to do it. That meaning takes all the bossiness out of it.

Say I make a little toy car for my son, Blake, out of scraps and remnants, then give it to him to play with. I may say, "Hold on, don't turn it that way or you'll break it. It's only designed to be turned the other way."
Then, he could choose to take my words as imperial and demanding and say, "You've given it to me and I'll use it the way I want to." Or, he could understand that I'm not criticising him but giving him the instruction for his own good and for the long-term benefit of the car.

Thinking this way, I find it easier to conclude that it's the same with God's rules and laws. He's the designer of this thing called "life" that we're living. Paying attention to the way He tells us it's made to be used is common sense. We may ignore Him and say, "I'm a free agent and you've given this life and body to me. I'll play with them the way I feel like." In this context, that seems by far the sillier reaction.

So I'm challenged to listen to Him when He says, "Hey, you're not supposed to put fear, unforgiveness, greed, adultery and anger into that thing. It'll stop it working properly because that's not the way I've designed it. You'll break it if you keep going." It makes perfect sense. Perhaps our biggest challenge is to have the wisdom to know what we're looking at when we come across it. Is it one of God's genuine laws and commands that are straight from Him and for our own good? Or is it the silly, judgmental notion of some petty-dictator who honestly thinks he's doing God's business but is really operating with the mind and heart of a Pharisee?
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