One of my favourite parts of nursing a baby is the extra excuses I have to read.
Oh, sweet bliss, I am stuck on the couch and can’t do anything… guess I’ll have to crack a book.
I am loving this one right now: Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
Talk about a book I needed to read at the start of a new year… It’s not just a hum-drum reminder to focus on goals, it is a knock-you-between-the-eyes power surge of inspiration to live life with intention, focus on what is totally essential, and let the nonessentials (almost everything) go. Here are a few quotations:
“The way of the Essentialist is the relentless pursuit of less but better” (p. 5).
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential” (p. 5).
“We can either make our choices deliberately or allow other people’s agenda’s to control our lives” (p. 16).
“What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?” (p.26)
“A Nonessentalist approaches every trade-off by asking, “How can I do both?” Essentialists ask the tougher but ultimately more liberating question, “Which problem do I want?… Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” (pp. 55-56)
Though I’m only halfway through this book, I’ve unearthed enough nuggets to really challenge about 100 ways I am allowing nonessentials to override my time to the detriment of deeper development and contribution.
I’m finding these thoughts especially pertinent in the area of home life and education.
As I wrestle with what exactly an education is, what it is for, and how best to pursue it with the children, I am coming away generally unsatisfied by much of the current thought on the matter. There is the academic track, the character-building track, the life-skills track, the Bible study track, etc., all with their advocates and confirming statistics. Most Christian homeschool families, us included, pursue some combination of all of the above, and more.
There is a plethora of wonderful materials to support every track; deep thoughtful and philosophical reasons to support each approach (Classical, Charlotte Mason, Delight-directed learning, etc.). So, consequently, much of my homeschooling journey has been a “How can I mesh the best of each option – sort of – approach.” Which is really code for: doing nothing well and feeling like a failure.
I desire to supply my children with a reasonably helpful education that includes a Christian worldview and some skills that will prepare them for life beyond the nest, though my primary desire is that they ‘graduate’ with a living relationship with God.
Yet, there’s still a gap, some hunger within me that is searching for more than the philosophies and methods and materials that are so abundantly available in this amazing age. As I wade through the copious possibilities, I keep coming to the conclusion that though many of them have great value, none of them is ‘it’.
I believe there is more, something even better; I desire my children to have a power-encounter with the living God that will propel them into a future full of faith and adventure, and, dare I say it? Miracles. And I am beginning to suspect that much of where I have been putting my effort still falls under ‘works’ and effort and human reasoning.
And I think, over the last year, I’ve been starting to figure out what it is that I’ve been missing.
I’m honing in on the essential.
For Ben and I it is this: Jesus.
So, if the essential thrust of our life is to be spent living with and for Jesus, how does that make home life look? How does that determine an education? How does that determine our time and prioritize our efforts?
What does a life locked into the power and purposes of Jesus look like?
Does it mean we ‘do school’ for the morning the same way every day, or does it mean starting the day by asking God what He wants us to do? (Maybe it means doing some book study, but maybe today we should serve our elderly neighbour and deliver a meal instead.)
I’m beginning to suspect that Life in the Spirit involves a lot more listening and waiting and downright obedience and a lot less of the effort and busy-body research I’m always doing. In a sense, doing is easy, it soothes my feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
But the Bible tells me to:
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
Big stretch here, but, what if God wanted to direct my path? What if he wanted to do miracles through my family, but we were too busy ‘studying’ and ‘doing’ to hear Him?
If Jesus is my essential, then these are the things that are also essential: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control, because Jesus is these things. He is not a unit study about these things, he is not a poster on the wall describing these things, he is not a daily prayer asking for more of these things: He is the power and substance of these things.
What if I was living in the power of Jesus? What if I was pursuing what the Bible tells me is available to those who know him intimately: healing, miracles… freedom?
I suspect, if I can lock into a life fully surrendered to God, the ‘education’ of our children would take care of itself. As I allow God access to my heart and trust Him, He will lead us in the way we should go.