To What End?
My 13 year old daughter stormed down the stairs with tears in her eyes, “Why are you speaking to my brothers that way?” She implored, “Don’t you hear yourself?”
She was responding to my harsh tone and critical words directed at our nine year old over playing the cello out of tune.
My first introduction to “homeschooling” came through a music program that required extensive, daily, parental involvement with the student at home. This provided one on one time each day, with three of our children individually, and this time did have the potential to be a sweet time of giggles, fun music games, and slow, steady progress.
Instead, in our home, this one-on-one practice time tended to be saturated in critical words, an unkind tone of voice, impatience, and pressure to achieve. It is true that with the approach I chose a child may learn quite a bit, but after years of this pattern my daughter’s exhortation caused me to ask myself, “To what end am I pushing these children?”
The sobering answer to this question for me involved valuing achievement over honoring the Lord with my words and keeping a loving tone with my children. At the moment I chose a harsh tone and critical words, I chose achievement over loving them in a manner that reflected the love of Jesus. After a period of reflection and prayer, it was evident that I had yet to yield to the loving arms and acceptance of Jesus and was still trying to prove my worth through things like the achievement of my children.
It has been months since my daughter stormed down the stairs. The change in my heart was not at all instant, and the ease with which I reverted to my “tone” at first was miserable. In time, however, the Lord has gently persisted in helping me bathe in His acceptance, and the one-on-one time has been noticeably better, with more giggles, more praise, and, funny, the musical progress is better.
On a practical level, recurring pitfalls in our home include trying to teach when pressed for time, hungry, sleep-deprived, and failing to allow for our, or our children’s, bad days. Sometimes it will not be perfect, but it will help the child more, in the end, to simply move to the the next thing or stop altogether.
To the astonishment of my children, I painted the phrase “to what end?” on the wall that I face during the one-on-one music time together. This year as VCS parents I pray that we would not be surprised by our sin and beat ourselves up but simply ask forgiveness and move on. I pray that the Lord would grant us wisdom to be neither too harsh nor too rosey and accepting of mediocrity from our children, that we would teach our children “to the end” of glorifying God, not ourselves, and not to the glory of the opinion of others. I pray also that the Lord would do whatever is needed in our hearts to get us “to this end.” Finally, I pray that we would look to Jesus with persistence through his word and through prayer.