Years ago at a women’s retreat, I received a scroll with the verse “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness (Psalm 37:3, NASB). Isn’t that a lovely passage? Cultivate has such a deep, rich connotation, involving growth, development, even flourishing. When I looked up the verse in my Bible, however, I discovered that in the NIV, the passage reads “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” What in the world do “cultivate faithfulness” and “enjoy safe pasture” have in common, I wondered.
For months, I meditated on the two versions of that verse. As many of you might know, to meditate on Scripture can mean to ruminate or to chew on something, as a cow chews on its cud. Therefore, that’s just what I did. During my day-to-day activities, I enjoyed my safe pasture, a happy California cow chewing on my cud of cultivate faithfulness whenever the verse came to mind, until one day I pictured a gardener, picking flowers and passing them out to others. Then it occurred to me . . . “What if it wasn’t my faithfulness but God’s faithfulness the passage referred to?”
That perspective gave the verse a completely new meaning. I could finally see the connection between the two translations: God’s faithfulness provides us with safe pasture. A quick look at BibleGateway.com confirms that in the NASB the verse can also be translated as “feed securely” or “feed on His faithfulness.” In fact, in the KJV, the verse reads, “verily thou shalt be fed,” and in the ESV, “befriend faithfulness.”
The key to cultivating faithfulness is found in the first part of that verse. Notice that all four translations begin the same way: “Trust in the Lord and do good.” His faithfulness inspires faithfulness in us. In turn, our faithfulness encourages others to be faithful. Just as a gardener gives away a flower, we can pass along faithfulness to others.
At times, we all could use encouragement to trust God in our homeschooling efforts. Juggling family life as a wife, a mother, and a teacher is hard. Rewards abound, but so do interruptions, conflicts, and unexpected struggles. Added doubts often creep in when we reach the high school years and worry that we are not equipped to educate our children at home. Even the most dedicated among us can be tempted to give in to fear. Taking the time to reflect on our reasons for homeschooling and to recognize simple gifts from our loving Father can help us overcome those obstacles and follow through on our commitment, sometimes with greater ease than we expected. Through this process, we cultivate faithfulness, we become yet another family that has successfully homeschooled through high school, and we encourage others to be faithful.
Two weeks ago, we held a high school graduation ceremony for our son and older daughter. It was a wonderful celebration attended by a mixture of fellow homeschoolers and friends from our neighborhood, church, and various community activities. We set up a display table with items from our son and daughter’s more recent school days. The table was decorated in a beach theme with lighthouses, sand, and candles shaped like shells and a starfish to accompany our school name, Lighthouse Academy, and our school motto, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (in Latin: de tenebris lux splendescat) from 2 Corinthians 4:6. The evening was lighthearted, filled with laughter as well as a few tears, and a highlight for many occurred when we all marched around the room, out the door, into the hallway, and back in the other door, playing “Pomp and Circumstance” on kazoos.
My part in the ceremony was to introduce the two graduates prior to their short speeches, giving the audience a glimpse of the interests and talents my children had developed over the years. I also took the opportunity to share about the two choir songs from our church service the previous Sunday, explaining that they embodied our vision for homeschooling. “Let Us Be Your Light” alludes to “A beacon of Your mercy” and “A light upon the hill,” and “A Song for the Nations” speaks of “A shining light” and “A word of hope.” I expressed our desire to bring light into a dark world, to let others know there is a God, a good God, who loves us and wants what is best for us.
At the ceremony, I did not, however, share about the odd year we had just experienced. It certainly wasn’t the kind of senior year I would have chosen for my children. Late last July, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I started my first round of chemotherapy on the Friday before Labor Day and finished the second round in mid-December. In early February, I had surgery to remove lymph nodes and what was left of the lump. I finished 6-1/2 weeks of daily radiation on the Friday before Mother’s Day. Our school year was disrupted with medical appointments and a lot of resting on my part, as the treatments took their toll. I had to adjust my goals, but the year did not turn out to be an academic disaster; in fact, as my two high school seniors graduated I was able to announce at their ceremony that they were just two classes short of completing a full year of college.
I stood at the lectern making that announcement with uncomfortably short hair. For a few weeks, I had gone back and forth trying to decide which would be less distracting: a hat or very short hair. I kept an eye out at the thrift stores for a dress that would go with the fashionable black hat I had been wearing to church since last fall when my hair began falling out or for a smaller, more decorative hat that would dress up an outfit, I already had. The Lord blessed me with a beautiful dark green dress like patterned silk with covered buttons, on sale . . . for one dollar and fifty cents! It brought out my natural complexion enough that I didn’t even waver over whether or not to wear a hat. I had the confidence to stand in front of our friends, without a hat, knowing that God had fully prepared me for that moment. He has prepared you, too, for we are His workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Two weeks from now, the church choir will be singing “Find Us Faithful.” John Mohr’s lyrics remind us “We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road.” They encourage us to leave “the heritage of faithfulness passed on through Godly lives.” Those exhortations have particular significance for us as homeschoolers and extra depth for those of us who homeschool through high school. We might sing with quivering voices of uncertainty at times, wondering if we are capable enough for the task at hand. But as our voices blend together, by faith, we become a great cloud of witnesses who do not grow weary or lose heart. When we cultivate faithfulness in our lives, we inspire a chorus of faithfulness.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.