I don’t even know where it comes from, but I feel way too much pressure when it comes to being a parent—especially at the beginning of the school year. I mean, I am raising tiny humans, but come on. I’m not even talking about the obvious cultural pressures of “needing” tons of extra money to buy the most up-to-date gadgets that all the kids have or to pay for all of the activities—although those pressures are very real. I’m talking about the subtle, simple need for each child to be his or her “best.” That is such a tricky statement, because what truly does “best” mean? If there is a best, then certainly there is a not-best; certainly there is a worse. And no one wants that.
I feel like I’ve been programmed to generalize childhood milestones with a checklist of pass/fails, ending up missing the truth of who my children are—more specifically, who they have been created to be. The wonder that is already inside of them simply needs to be acknowledged and cultivated; not compared and rated. There are obvious times when children will need to compete, be tested, and measure up. But in our day-to-day experience with them, I must never see it as a game of winning and losing, of measuring up. I need to see the unique people God has given to me, growing up right in front of my eyes, and to partner with Him to see each of their callings come to life.
This particularly hits home to me, as we are a homeschool family. Certainly I want the best for my children. Certainly I want them to excel, like Daniel. Isn’t that what I should want, for my children to be “without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and (even) qualified to serve (at a)… king’s palace” (Daniel 1:3-4)? To be—the best? I mean that would be awesome. And, there are kids who actually are this, speaking foreign languages in kindergarten, taking college math in middle school, being selected into elite dance programs at young ages. And this truly is awesome. But—here’s the deal. Not every homeschooler fits into this category. The truth is, not every traditional schooler fits into this category either. But there seems to be, at least in my experience, a need to prove my worthiness as a homeschool mom based on these far-reaching goals. My vision of what I had expected our homeschool to look like at this point on our journey is vastly different than my actual experience because some of my children struggle in ways that I could have never predicted. I have come to realize that they are not all Daniels.
But what is freeing is this: you can’t raise a Daniel if you’ve been given a Peter—and why would you want to? I don’t know what Peter was like as a child or even a young man for that matter. Scripture paints a picture of him when he’s all grown up. Maybe he was a hyperactive child. Maybe he squirmed around a lot. Maybe his father had to scold him during synagogue to be quiet. Maybe he was impulsive as a teenager. Maybe he hung with the rough crowd. We do know that he was a fisherman by trade, and while very useful, it wasn’t the most refined of careers. We also know that he was a bit all over the place. (Remember when Peter said he would always, 100% stay true to his friendship with Jesus, but then within hours of saying this he denied knowing Him to 3 different people?) We know he was a little rough around the edges. But we also know that he always gave it his all. Most people remember Peter sinking when attempting to walk on the water—but what I am stuck on is the fact that he witnessed the miracle-working-Jesus literally walking on water during a storm and he was the only one to ask if he could do the very same thing, while all of his friends just sat back scared. That’s not perfection. That’s guts—that’s heart. Perhaps his heart is what Jesus saw when He called Peter to be the foundation of the early church. Maybe Jesus knew he needed strong arms that could handle a mess. He didn’t need perfection. He needed Peter. We also know the religious leaders saw Peter as “unschooled (and) ordinary.” At the same time, “they were astonished and they took note that (he) had been with Jesus” after he healed a lame man, causing him to instantly walk (Acts 3:8; 4:13). Peter wasn’t supposed to have all of his i’s dotted and t’s crossed. He was ordinary. But he had been with Jesus and everyone could tell.
Both Daniel and Peter were able to know who they were individually created to be, in very different ways, centuries apart. They were able to recognize their God-given talents, and walk the individual paths carved out for them. Daniel’s diligence in education placed him in an area of great influence; yet his fervent prayers to God kept him safe from hungry lions when his smarts were no help. Peter was a fisherman by trade—yet a fisherman who was needed and called by God to work miracles and build His church. Both of these men knew who they were, and knew the great and mighty One they served.
It really is not about being the best. It’s about being known. And when we know who we have been created to be, instead of trying to be who were are not, we can be free to be who we are. With my children, I am discovering that the most important thing to discover is–them. If you have a Daniel, great. But if you have a Peter—remember, that is great too.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain undeniable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is included in The Declaration of Independence (US 1776.)”
The truth is the world got it wrong. Something that God quickly began to teach me as I attempted to watch the well-known movie The Pursuit of Happiness. As we embark on what is easily the most hostile election year to date, it is evident we need to pursue what Jesus instructed from the first day of his ministry. We need to pursue the Kingdom of God.
As Christians, too often we associate ourselves and our circumstances with the pursuit of things that make us happy or feel good. This takes us away from the purpose of God in our lives. Happiness by definition comes from the root word, hap – which means luck, chance, or fortune. This sets the way to create an idol in our lives, one that causes us to focus on the pleasures of life and the circumstances that surround them. Take note this is something God clearly speaks about in Isaiah 65:8-12. This is even true when it comes to the election and voting for a person who makes you feel good, or even secure and happy, not necessarily what lines up with the will of God.
Does that mean that God’s will is for us to never be happy? By no means. Quite the opposite in fact. God wants us to be happy. Jesus preaches it very much so in Matt 5:3-12 commonly known as the beatitudes. Take note, however, this sermon is preached as characteristics for those who have entered into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:17). ‘Blessed’ in Greek means happy and in Aramaic means prosperous. What does that mean for us? It means that in order to be really happy (blessed), we need to pursue God and His Kingdom. Deeper than that, seeking God, staying in His will, produces joy, and that is something that is not dependent on circumstances, it is indwelling and solely dependent upon God.