(Belated) Back to School

 

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September is a bit like January, with all of its good intentions and naïve dreams of being a better version of myself.  Over the summer I scheme and daydream and about being more on top of things, and wonder whether this is finally the year we’ll get “the balance right.”

When my children returned to school this term, I felt quite lost for a couple of days.  Suddenly the flat was quiet and I had time to do all the things I had been putting off during the holidays. But where to start?

By week two, we’re were off to the proverbial races and we have to remember PE kits, after-school clubs, homework and consent forms.  I feel like now that it’s all in full swing, there isn’t much time for quiet reflection.  But I have noticed one thing:

I’m still me.

I’m not the slick, imaginary version of myself I’d dared to hope I might be.

As it’s a ‘new year’ I’ve been using some new Bible reading notes, and I’m slowly reading John Chapters 14-16.  I keep thinking about these words:

 

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15)

If you can relate to my emotional ups and downs, here are a few encouragements from Jesus’ words here:

You’re in Christ.  If you believe in the Son, and he’s your Lord, then you’re secure in him. This is the same whether your kids are at home, at school, or at the hospital.  It’s true when your morning is running smoothly, and it’s true when someone spills the cereal and the cucumber lands in your tea.  It’s true at the Seaside in August, and it’s true on the school run in September.

You’re bearing fruit.  If you’re in Christ, then he’s making sure you bear fruit.  He’s making you more like himself.  It’s not just my children who’ll be learning a thing or two this year.  Jesus has a curriculum ready for me, too.

If you’re bearing fruit, you’ll be pruned.  Jesus’ curriculum for me will at times be painful, because he’s chopping off the selfishness; the pride; the impatience; the harshness; the self-pity; the badness etc.  And this is good news! He’s getting rid of it, so I need to get with the programme.

Apart from Him you can do nothing.  I don’t need to be slick (there’s no danger of that, so phew!), and I don’t need anyone to think I’m on top of things.  I don’t need to depend on a new system or regime for getting out of the door and through the school gate on time and in a state of calm serenity.  I need to depend on Him.  Seriously, I need to remain in him.  Jesus repeats this phrase to emphasise that this is what we need.  We must depend on him.  We must trust and obey him.  I need to take my eyes off my ‘to-do’ list and wish lists, and fix them on Christ.

It’s for the Father’s glory, not mine.  “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15v8) When I remember and acknowledge that I’m completely dependant on Christ, I will give the glory to the Father.  What’s my goal for this term?  Is it to keep a neat hallway?  Is it to donate more stuff to the charity shop?  Is it to finally teach my daughter the piano?  Well, those could be my mini goals, but my ultimate goal must be to glorify my Father in heaven.  That is obedience.  And let’s face it, that is much, much more worthwhile.

Let’s pray for a fruitful term, to the Father’s glory, knowing that the Gardener will have some pruning to do.  (And try not to forget the packed lunches.)

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Two Women

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42).  Please don’t switch off – I know you’ve probably read many a blog post about them but this won’t take long!

I, of course, identify with Martha.  She’s so busy.  She can’t see the wood for the trees.  She hasn’t chosen “what is better,” which is to listen to Jesus.  As parents, we are so busy.  Sometimes I’m a slave to my own – or other people’s – expectations of what can be achieved in a day.  And so I fail to make time to sit down and listen to Jesus.

If only I could be more like Mary. There she is in my children’s bible, sitting at Jesus’ feet and smiling serenely.  She’s a woman with the right priorities.  She doesn’t seem to care about her culture’s expectations of her.  She puts Jesus first.  I must be more like that.

The problem is, that feeling guilty about not being more like Mary isn’t actually going to drive me to the feet of Jesus to listen to him.  It might for a day or two, but not for a lifetime.

There’s another woman I’ve been thinking about.  She’s not serene or sensible.  She’s not had the right priorities.  She hasn’t been putting Jesus first.  She’s a “sinful woman.” She’s found in each of the four gospels, and Jesus honoured her for her devotion to him.  The two things – her sinfulness and her devotion – go hand in hand, as Jesus explains to the Pharisee in Luke Chapter 7: “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much.  But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (See Luke 7:41-47).  It’s logical, right?  She’s desperate for forgiveness, and when she receives it she’s overwhelmed with gratitude and love for Jesus.  In a simple but extravagant act which would make her famous, she gives up her greatest treasure so that she can worship him.

So we’ve got these two women.  One (Mary) puts Jesus first, as I know I should.  One is sinful – and I know I’m that.  But sisters, let’s not forget that these two women are in fact the same woman.

John is very clear about that in chapter 11:
“This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.” (v2)
and chapter 12: “Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honour… Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair.” (v3)

It turns out, therefore, that I can be like Mary.  I am a sinful woman, and I need to be forgiven much.  So when I come to Jesus it’s as someone who has been forgiven much, and who needs to be reminded of that forgiveness which is only found in Christ.  I come as a desperate woman, needing grace and to know the Father’s love for me.  I come knowing that I have other things I could be doing, but I am free – free to choose what is better.

And how do I come to Jesus?  Well, I pray, read the Bible, and pray.  I feed on his living and active word, which wonderfully I can do because I have it in my language.

Our God speaks: let’s listen to him.

As often happens, this brings to mind a Colin Buchanan song:

“If you’re a fusser or a fretter
Take the plunge and choose the better 
and Pray for help, when you’re stressed,
Leave the good, and choose the best!”

Come on Over

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Did you have a wedding gift list?  Oh the joy.  It’s particularly satisfying if you haven’t got two pennies to rub together.  You get to go round a department store with one of those bar code guns (they’re probably not called guns) and scan to your heart’s content.  You choose plates and bowls and pots and pans, and look forward to all the entertaining you’re going to do when you have a home that’s just yours.  I remember hoping and praying that we’d have a really welcoming home, showing hospitality and blessing our community.

And this sort of happened.  I’ve certainly got better at it over the years.  And as I’ve learnt how to cook, and how to tidy up, I’ve also learnt that what really matters in hospitality is that you love people.  That can be costly, but not in a monetary sense.

We are, as Christians, commanded to be hospitable.  It’s one way we show God’s love to others.  Since God is love and we are his ambassadors, it’s pretty important that we show hospitality.  But you don’t have to take it from me:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. (Romans 12: 12-13)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:8-9)

It seems from these verses that hospitality isn’t an optional extra, for those who are really good at cooking and into that sort of thing.  I don’t think, by the way, that you need your own home or your own kitchen or a dinner table to show hospitality, but since this is a parenting blog I’m assuming you do have somewhere to cook and eat food.

So going back to my enthusiasm as a newlywed – life has changed more than a little since then.  Life got busy.  My home got smaller, and the number of inhabitants got bigger.  Now when people come through the front door, they have to trample past my children’s bedroom door.  I can’t really expect them to come through the living room window (no… I really shouldn’t).

Plus, you know, I’m tired from feeding and looking after my children all day every day.  Doesn’t that count as hospitality?

No. It doesn’t.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad, but I’ve noticed something about hospitality.  We all find reasons not to do it.  We all seem to think that we would do it under more suitable circumstances.  When the children are older.  Once we move that wall.  When we get an oven*.  Once I’ve had big clear-out.  My home just isn’t welcoming enough. Nobody would enjoy coming here.

Can I suggest that we should all remember that we’re in a spiritual battle?  Since we’re commanded to be hospitable, we can be sure that the Lord will use it for his glory.  And therefore we can also expect that we’ll be tempted not to do it.  So let’s fight that battle, instead of just surrendering to the inconveniences.  It might be that you’ve had some hospitality disasters.  In fact, this is pretty likely.  But that’s OK.  We pick ourselves up and fight on.

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Also I’ve noticed that people on the receiving end of hospitality are rarely aware of our alleged shortcomings.  If you think your house is too dark or too messy or too small or too full, it’s unlikely that the person coming round for a cuppa will think so too.

I was amazed to hear from a friend recently that she’s never thought that my living room was not very conducive to hospitality.  I mean, really amazed.  It just shows that my perception of my home is not the same as my guests’. (My living room, by the way, has nine walls.)

I remember another friend saying to me, “I either need to keep my flat tidier, or lower my standards of how tidy it needs to be before I invite my neighbour in.” I think she put it better than that but hopefully you see the point.  If your house is too messy, then tidy it.  If you can’t tidy it, then invite people over anyway.

Maybe you think your own family will feel neglected if you have people over.  But let’s not underestimate how much our children will learn from seeing us love people, especially people who aren’t like us.

The Lord doesn’t make commands and then add, ‘when it’s convenient.’ He himself invites us to a feast – was it easy for him to make that happen?  Was it convenient for Jesus to leave his home in heaven to come down into our neighbourhood and invite us to his party? Were we grateful guests? Were we attractive guests? Did that stop him?

What a blessing we’ll be to our communities if we pray to God and ask him to help us to be more hospitable.  Maybe we need to pile everything into the kitchen sink before the school run so we’re able to invite someone in for a cuppa.  Maybe we could start by inviting someone for lunch after church.  Tinned soup and supermarket bread goes down a treat, in my experience.

Let’s not think that, if we’re parents, we’re exempt from showing hospitality.  It might be really hard for us, but the Lord sees that even if nobody else does.  And remember that if your guests don’t have a family, your family will most probably be a blessing to them. By God’s grace, the family home is a powerful thing.

I do believe that God wants to help us grow in hospitality. Who knows what blessings he has in store?  And when it goes wrong, let’s laugh it off, dust ourselves down and try again soon.  Grace be with you!

For more on this, I’d love to recommend ‘The Ministry of a Messy House’ by Amanda Robbie.

(If the title of this blog post made you think of Shania Twain, then we are on the smart wavelengh my friend. Ah – ah – aoooh…)

*we did once spend some time in a very big house with no oven. We used a microwave.

“I’m Ungrateful!”

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“That ain’t fair, miss.”

This is one of the most commonly used phrases in the classroom.  Sometimes, when teaching teenagers in East London, I used to respond with a lecture about how they were absolutely right, things aren’t fair because they get an education they don’t have to pay for, in safety and comfort and with all the resources they need, while some children have no opportunity to go to school and have to slave away seven days a week just to survive.  So no, life isn’t fair. As you can imagine, this went down really well.

It doesn’t take long for small children to learn to say “that’s not fair.” Some children I’ve met seem to begin each sentence with this phrase – I’m not sure they’re quite sure they’re even saying it.  But it’s not just children.  Of course, they’re only expressing an attitude which many of us, as adults, still have.  We might not say that same phrase as much, but we might harbour resentments or appeal for sympathy because we, deep down, feel that things are not fair.  “I’m fine, it’s just really hard because, you know, I don’t have a tumble dryer.” Or “It’d just be much easier if I had a car, that’s all.” Or “That’s good advice but I can’t do that because I don’t have the time/space/money/figure/teeth.”  Poor me.

In our home we’re not allowed to say “that’s not fair.” Of course, people do say it, but I won’t just let that go unchecked.  (There is, of course, a way to say “that’s not fair” and not be whinging, but I’ve never heard my children use it that way.  When they say “that’s not fair”, what I hear is, “I’m ungrateful.”) Instead of being thankful for what they have, they’re looking at what someone else has or what they feel they deserve, and being discontent with their own lot. When I hear them say, “that’s not fair,” I try to have them rephrase it and apologise, e.g.

“No you can’t have another biscuit.”
“That’s not fair!”
“What you mean is, ‘I’m ungrateful that I got to have one biscuit.’ What do you need to say?”
“Sorry that I’m ungrateful that I got to have one biscuit.”

I’m sure you can find many flaws with this approach, but hopefully it’ll go some way to showing the children that nothing good (not even a biscuit) can be gained by being ungrateful and discontent.  Lord, may they not become “that ain’t fair, miss” teenagers.

During Lent I’m reading through Proverbs and also The Way of Wisdom by Timothy Keller.  There’s a lot in Proverbs about envy:

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
    when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
or the Lord will see and disapprove
    and turn his wrath away from them. (Proverbs 24.17-18)

Keller writes about the German word Schadenfreude, which means joy in someone else’s sorrow/shame.  You know, like tabloid newspapers? But it’s a problem we all have in our hearts at times.  We might not want to be, but we’re secretly pleased when something finally goes wrong for someone.  Or there’s the opposite, which is secretly being upset when someone else does well.  What ugliness.

When I envy my friend’s gifts, house, cooking skills, church community, success at work etc. I’m actually being really unloving towards her.  Do I get that?  I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of envy.  If you envy me because I can go on a super duper holiday, for example, you’re essentially saying that you wish I didn’t have that blessing.   (And by the way, isn’t Social Media the perfect breeding ground for envy?)

That’s not love.

A heart at peace gives life to the body,
    but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30.

A heart at peace is thankful to God.  Comparisons and envy will destroy me.  As Keller said, ‘envy is being unhappy at other people’s happiness.’  How horrifying!  I think we know this is bad, but it’s good to be reminded.  I also think that we don’t recognise this very well in children.  Envy becomes an accepted part of life, and we can even plan things around it.  We don’t challenge the child who says, “How come she gets to go there/do that, I’ve never been/done it, it’s not fair!” Or we even withhold good things from one child because we know the others will be envious. “I can’t let them go to that party/have that free drama class because it wouldn’t be fair on the others” (i.e. the others would have a tantrum about how unfair everything is).  When they’re crying over someone else’s birthday presents we try to placate them by saying, “Oh well I’m sure you’ll get something nice for your birthday.”

“It’s only natural they should be envious,” we say.  It is natural, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.  As Christians, we wage war against our natural, sinful natures.  Instead, we can encourage them to be thankful for their brother or sister’s joy and success, and we can remind them of everything they have to thank God for.  If we train them early, what a blessing it will be for them later in life if they’ve learnt to be thankful for God’s grace in the lives of others.

For more on comparisons, please see here and here.

The Power of “Goodbye”

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What’s the hardest thing about raising young children in the city?

I wonder what you think. The traffic, the rent, cramped living, the lack of grass? The noisy neighbours, the hit-and-miss schools, the on-street (and not even your own street) parking? How about the hours spent commuting, or the polluted air, or the lack of like-minded Christian families?   These are all relevant – some more than others. (Grass is overrated, friends. Heaven is a garden CITY.)

For me, not one of these things is the hardest thing about raising my children in the city. The hardest thing is this: people leave. I’m trying to nurture a stable family in a transient city, which feels a bit like trying to make friends in the middle of Kings Cross station. Some people do stop, they say hello, they might even invest a little. But then they have to rush – they have a train to catch.

People leave for good reasons. They take the gospel to undesirable places, or their job moves them, or they go to Bible college, or they move nearer to sick parents. (Some people don’t leave for good reasons, by the way, but I’m not here to judge.) And I can cope with that – ish. I miss them, and I cry when they leave, but I can see the bigger picture. The West Country needs youth workers: I get it.

But it’s harder for children to see the bigger picture. My daughter doesn’t even know how long an hour is; my son doesn’t quite know the difference between London and Longnewton (my parents’ village). So how are they meant to understand that it’s actually a good thing that we’re waving goodbye (yet again) to another precious friend, because they’re meeting a need somewhere in South East Asia? My heart aches in a way it never used to before I had children, because I don’t like to see them sad. It’s as simple as that.

It’s not just church family members, either. It’s the teachers, the support staff, and the classmates. They can be here one day, and gone the next. And each time this happens, I feel like my child’s foundations are crumbling away, bit by bit.

But I need to learn some things. I spent last night and this morning in tears about this issue, by the way, so please don’t assume I have this figured out!

The more people leave us, the more we rely on the Lord. He’s my rock and my foundation. He will never leave me. Time and again the Lord reminds his people of this fact: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’* Sweet, sweet words. (This is what I told my daughter the day her nursery teacher was dismissed without notice.) And of course, Jesus himself comforted his disciples with these words: ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matt 28:20). When friends leave, we’re forced to lean more on the One who never does. So if our weak foundations do crumble, by God’s grace they can be replaced by the true Rock.

When people leave to serve in God’s Kingdom elsewhere, it does help the children to have a more global perspective. This is hard for them, but it is possible. We’ve found that showing them maps and praying for people in other countries has helped them with this. And, similarly, they are learning that we all suffer for the advance of the gospel – those who go, and those who stay behind. These are hard but character-building lessons to learn, and I pray that by learning them my children will be blessed, and will be a blessing to the Kingdom as they grow up.

Also, waving goodbye to people makes us long for Jesus to return soon. I can tell my children that in the new creation, in the garden city, there’ll be no more goodbyes. There’ll be no unreached people groups, no sick relatives, no war zones, no more tears. It would be nice if my church family could be together forever, and that nobody would have to leave, but then we wouldn’t look forward to heaven enough. And one day, we will be with our brothers and sisters for eternity. In the words of that great Australian theologian of our time, Colin Buchanan: ‘Hooley Dooley Wop Bam Boom! Jesus Christ is coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.  Click on the speech bubble, top right.

*Deut 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8: 57.

Enjoy yourself (Just not in the same way you used to before)!

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I used to look forward to, and enjoy, weekends away with church. Now I brace myself for them, and often feel I’m the worst version of ‘me’ when I’m there. Sad, I know. But I believe that through prayer and practical wisdom this, the “time away with church family, with a family,” can be conquered!

I’m going away today, so I thought I’d offer some tips on how to get through, I mean enjoy, your time away (it’s more fun than packing). I’m in no way the expert, but I thought I’d share what I’ve come up with thus far – you’ll see I’m learning from my mistakes.

Things NOT to expect:

Sleep – Time and again I make the mistake of arriving on a conference/camp/ weekend away already tired, and hoping for some rest. Go on, point and laugh, I deserve it. You won’t get much sleep. Things will prevent you from sleeping: probably your children. But while you can do everything in your power to encourage your children to have a good night’s sleep (blackouts, familiar bedding, nightlight etc.), there are always things you can’t control. Even if your children sleep wonderfully, you are still likely to be woken up by something else, e.g. someone else’s child; a fire alarm; a 5am delivery van; a 3am Pentecostal prayer gathering (this has been my experience, anyway).

Catching up with good friends – this is unlikely, because you will be busy with your brood and also there may be other people who need you more. You don’t want to end up resenting your children or anyone else who gets in the way of your nice long chat with so-and-so. Maybe think of this as an opportunity to arrange to meet up with that friend in the next couple of weeks! Then, if you do end up having a good chat: bonus!

Taking part in everything that’s going on – it might be the teaching you look forward to, or the social aspect, or praying together. But it’s likely you’ll miss out on something you’d really like to have been at. You might get trapped in your room with a clingy baby and no phone signal to beckon help, while everyone else is having a whale of a time doing “organised fun.” You might miss all of the talks because your 3-year-old is terrified of the unfamiliar surroundings, or you might have to take someone to A&E. Hopefully none of these will happen, but I’m just saying it’s good to be emotionally prepared to miss out.

Things to DO:

Be thankful. Sorry everything above is so negative. I think that if we “manage our expectations” (fancy phrase) then we’re more likely to be thankful for any fun/teaching/sleeping/encouragements that we do receive. I need to remember to be thankful, because I just won’t be otherwise. I’m like that, me.

Forget yourself. I find that at these intense, emotionally draining times I get too focused on my own “problems” (e.g. lack of sleep/missed the seminar), which is just a recipe for disaster. If I try to focus on making sure other people are OK, I’ll actually start to forget what I was so narked off about in the first place. Get over yourself, Catherine (or, you know, something less harsh).

Research – if you haven’t been to the venue before, try to find out what you need to take with you from someone who has been or from the venue itself. You don’t want to arrive and realise you were meant to bring bedding. Almost equally you don’t want to stuff five duvets into your boot (trunk) and then discover you didn’t need them. Especially if you don’t have a driveway, so loading the car is tricky, and you bought the duvets especially. Just saying.

I’ve now noticed that (maybe apart from the final one) these are quite good tips for life in general. Maybe that’s because time away with church is really just a more intense version of normal life. And I need to remember, too, what an AMAZING privilege it is to have the resources, the community, and the freedom to be able to do this. Would my North Korean sister be grumbling about missing the Saturday night karaoke if she were here? No, I’m pretty sure she’d think she’d died and gone to heaven.

Have a good weekend, folks!

Head Above Parapet

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I’m reading through Jeremiah at the moment.  Sigh.  It’s so tragic, not to mention long.  Recently at church we looked at Ezekiel together, and one thing I’ve learnt from Jeremiah and Ezekiel is this:  the Lord hates idolatry.  Sometimes I find myself turning to idols – comfort eating/retail therapy/thinking my husband can solve all of my problems – and I remind myself that those idols won’t satisfy me.  They’re not good for me.  And this is true – God uses it as a reason to turn from idols when he speaks to his people: ‘Where are the gods you made for yourselves?  Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble!’ Jeremiah 2:28.

But the first reason I shouldn’t worship idols is not actually to do with me and what I will or won’t get out of it.  The first reason is that the LORD is the only true and living God, and he hates idolatry.  He will not share his glory with another.  Just read what he says to his people in Ezekiel 7v3-4:

The end is now upon you,

and I will unleash my anger against you.
I will judge you according to your conduct

and repay you for all your detestable practices.
I will not look on you with pity;

I will not spare you.
I will surely repay you for your conduct

and for the detestable practices among you.

It’s sobering stuff, isn’t it?  Idolatry makes God angry, because he alone deserves all the glory:

But the Lord is the true God;

he is the living God, the eternal King.
When he is angry, the earth trembles;

the nations cannot endure his wrath…
He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like [idols],
for he is the Maker of all things… Jeremiah 10:10;16

So when I find myself trusting in other things, I need to repent and ask the Lord to give me a pure heart that worships him alone.

Sometimes, though, an idol is so ubiquitous and normal in our society that we might not even notice it. These are the dangerous ones, because if they’re even normal within the church, we’re much more likely to keep on trusting in them, and therefore not fully trusting in the Lord.

One example of a popular god in our society has caught my attention recently.  This god is ruthless and cruel.  It promises much: power, success, money, opportunity, legacy, freedom, but of course it cannot deliver.  It will not satisfy.  But also if you don’t live up to its high demands, this god will label you useless, stupid and an all-round failure.  And even as its most devout followers begin to see the cracks and the disappointments in this religion, they are pushing their children harder in its rituals and practices.  Perhaps they just need to work a little harder at it?  Then they’ll really see results.  They’ll have absolute security; they’ll be truly satisfied; they’ll really feel significant.

Have you guessed what it is yet?  I hope so.  This is the Western god of education, or perhaps I should say Academic Success.  Now before you throw your laptop down in disgust (don’t do that, you’ll only regret it), I know that education and success in it are good things.  For what it’s worth, I did extremely well academically at school and I know I’ve benefitted from that.  But our society has turned this good thing into a false god, and the current generation of teenagers is being worked harder and put under more pressure than any generation before it.  Youth groups suffer (i.e. discipleship takes a back seat) because teenagers can’t spare the time away from homework and revision.  The local church ships its teenagers off to an independent school miles away while the school on its doorstep remains oblivious to the gospel message.  Young people leave university, crippled with debt and still not knowing who they are or what to do with their lives.  And all because we, not just our neighbours but our churches too, believe that salvation comes from being the top of the class.

Can I just reiterate that although I know I’m putting this strongly, I do believe that education itself is a good thing.  If it adds weight to my argument, I did used to be a teacher and I loved it!  And although I know this is a very contentious issue, I do believe we are free to send our children to whichever school seems right.  I do also think that we need to examine and question our motives, particularly because the worship of Academic Success is all around us, inviting us in.  Education might be a silver bullet, but it is not a saviour.

In a week’s time I will find out what school my daughter will be going to in September.  Every year this gets in the newspapers, with headlines about ‘postcode lottery’ and parents almost having breakdowns with the stress of getting their kids into the ‘only good school in the area.’  As a mum, it’s really hard not to get swept along with the hysteria.  Pangs of jealousy when you meet someone whose child got into the school yours didn’t get into.  Lying in bed at night wondering whether she will be irrevocably damaged by a sub-standard primary school.

I could go on and on about this.  If you know me personally, I’ve probably talked to you about it.  Maybe I’ll write another post (or ten) about it in the future, but for now let me just encourage you that above all, your child needs Jesus.  My daughter needs to know that the Lord made her – that’s who she is.  The Lord loves her – that’s where her security lies.  The Lord can forgive her sins – that’s her salvation.

The Lord loves your child, and his plans are perfect.  This is true if you can afford the best prep school in the country; it’s true if your child has a scholarship to that prep school; it’s true if you home educate; it’s true if your child’s school is ‘bog standard.’  It’s true if your child’s school is the absolute worst performing primary school in the UK.

I love this from 1 Samuel: Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless (1 Samuel 12:21).  In case we didn’t hear it the first time, he tells us again that the idols we make for ourselves are useless!  Only the Lord is God.

So how do we do turn away from idols?  As Tim Keller says in Counterfeit Gods, ‘idols must be displaced.’  We turn from idols by worshipping the Lord:

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.’ Jeremiah 17:7-8