Upon a life I have not lived,
Upon a death I did not die,
Another’s life, Another’s death,
I stake my whole eternity.
This hymn by prolific nineteenth century Scottish hymn writer and pastor Horatius Bonar has become my homeschool theme song, both my encouragement and my exhortation. In my conversations with other homeschool moms, so many of us express similar feelings of insufficiency and doubt, question that we are somehow failing our children and harbor a secret fear deep down that somehow God is disappointed in us. In the face of such a calling as ours, how can we stand, not only in eternity but in the daily grind of homeschool life, if not upon a life we have not lived and upon a death we did not die?
I Corinthians 2:1-5 sounds to me so much like many of my homeschooling days! Honestly? With four small children, I, like Paul says in verse 3, approach each new day “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” while facing these young souls for whom I will one day be held accountable. As they all need me at once and the laundry piles up and assignments are undone and my finiteness is ever more evident, I am often tempted to despair. Then I sing Bonar’s hymn and remember that my standing before God rests in Christ alone. This is big theology that we sometimes take for granted, tempted to relegate it to a doctrine pigeon hole, as if it isn’t practical for our everyday homeschool lives. The doctrine of justification, we might think, does nothing to get the spelling words tested, the dirty diapers changed, or the math lesson corrected. Yet knowing who we are in Christ is supremely practical. Paul continues, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. . . . my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” If we could do this whole homeschool thing with ease, we’d be like the Pharisees who, not knowing they were sick and blind, didn’t know they needed a Physician. How good God is to bring us to a sense of the complete insufficiency of our own works, that He might demonstrate the Spirit’s power and the sufficient work of Christ in our lives and as a testimony to our children! “Mommy needs Jesus just like you do,” we are telling them each day whether we struggle or we succeed. “We can’t do this in our own strength.” Our homeschooling just as much as our eternal destiny rests upon a life we have not lived.
Oh, fellow laborers in this monumental (and, dare I say it, sometimes crazy) work, how I wish I could wildly grin at you in person and remind you as I often need to remind myself: Your Heavenly Father is pleased with you, He delights in you, rejoicing over His people with singing (Zephaniah 3:14-17)! He doesn’t love us because we’re pretty awesome homemakers (as my dust bunnies can attest). He doesn’t delight in us because our unit studies are the most elaborate (we have a kind of boring no-messy-craft policy around here); and He doesn’t sing because our kids are always obedient (because, let’s face it, we’ve all been the one bringing that kid to co-op events at times)! When God looks at His people each day, He sees the perfect life Christ has already lived and the atoning death He died, and He is perfectly and completely pleased and delighted with who you are in Christ. How would it transform those niggling feelings of guilt, insufficiency, shame and fear if we meditated on this truth?
What do our children see each day? Our husband? All those others whose approval we seek? Are we trying to be the perfect homeschool mom, afraid of not picking the right curriculum, missing the perfect experiment or hands-on opportunity, or being the one who’s not-so-perfect kid is running around like a crazy person at the church event? Do others see a whole bunch of us trying to be amazing, or do they see a lot of glorying in Christ in the midst of insufficiency? How do we view our own daily labors? Do we see them as drudgery, a burden, an overwhelming and impossible task? Or do we see that they are beautiful and important—not because we are awesome and worthy, but because Jesus, our Savior, is Awesome and Worthy!
Who God is and what He has done directly impacts not only how God sees us, but also how we should see ourselves, speaking truth to our, at times, frazzled emotions and confused minds. For in homeschooling, as in all of life, “On merit not my own I stand; / On doings which I have not done, / Merit beyond what I can claim, / Doings more perfect than my own.” May these truths transform our thoughts, lift us up from despair, and exhort us to lives worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Complete lyrics to Horatius Bonar’s Hymn “Christ For Us” can be found at http://s3.amazonaws.com/ruf-hymnbook-prod/hymns/1519/original/Christ_for…. I first heard a partial version of this hymn on a CD, “Joy Beyond The Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI,” where it is titled “Upon a Life I Did Not Live.” (http://hymnbook.igracemusic.com/albums/joy-beyond-the-sorrow-indelible-g…)