All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
“Come, Ye Sinners”
Have you ever questioned your sufficiency for the roles you play? How can you tell if you are a success or not? These questions are common to us as home educating parents and tutors.
Am I any good at this? Do I bring any worth? Am I doing this for the right reasons? Am I out of God’s will, or simply out of my comfort zone? Is this helping or hindering my family? Am I doing my students a disservice by preventing someone better from taking on the job? Am I doing well by my own teens as a parent-tutor? Have I held up Christ to my students as I ought?
These questions and others have rolled around my own mind yearly since signing up to direct Challenge III. In the five years prior, we participated in our campus as my own young children slowly outgrew what I mentally refer to as the “koala” stage (i.e., clinging to mama). Eventually, I found the freedom and summoned the courage to tutor abecedarians. It was from these adorable four- and five-year-olds—chanting prepositions, singing and signing the timeline, telling funny geography stories—that I made the sudden jump to debate, poetry, stoichiometry, and Ciceronian oration.
I came to directing Challenge the way many parents do: our community had a need; the better person for the job faced a sudden life change that prevented directing; and I wanted to make the Challenge class available to my own children and their friends. I was the person of the moment, not necessarily the perfect fit.
In reviewing the past three years, I can see how insufficient for the moment I was in many ways, and how much I still have to learn and practice. Yet, the Holy Spirit whispers that insufficiency is, in itself, not a disqualification for directing a Challenge level. In fact—is it possible?—perhaps it is the first qualification. For I ask some of the very same questions about my roles as wife and homeschooling mother, and there is no denying those are God-ordained vocations placed in the hands of an insufficient person.
So insufficiency is a given, common enough to humanity, but also not enough to qualify me for the job. It is nothing without the next step. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from?”[i] The answer to that question brings about in my heart the most important qualification: humility.
Simply knowing my endless need may not eradicate my pride, but only make it ache. It does sting a bit, looking back on a school year and wishing I might have done better. Depending entirely on the all-sufficiency of the Lord, on the other hand, allows me to divest myself altogether and be clothed with Him.
Andrew Murray, in his book on humility, wrote: “Our humility before God has no value, except that it prepares us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow men.”[ii] Acknowledging my lack is of no value in and of itself; it is “coming unto Him” and being yoked with Him that will glorify Christ before my students. “To know God, and to make Him known,” is, as we relearn every year, our ultimate purpose. By making Him known on our meeting day, I can help my students to know Him, and He is the central point of everything we are doing, in education as in life.
Therein lies kingdom success. As George MacDonald wrote, “There is no success in the universe but in his will being done.”[iii] To empty oneself and to become obedient: that is the only attitude every director, every tutor, and every parent can adopt that bears real fruit in our efforts to educate.
What does kingdom success look like as we direct? It looks much the way Christ-led parenting looks. It looks, of course, like Jesus.
Pride pontificates; humility probes. “Who do people say that I am? Who do you say that I am?”[iv] When I ask questions that lead my students to the truth, I do them a better service than forcing my own opinion.
Pride belabors mistakes, while humility blesses. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”[v] When I edify with constructive observations and focus on what my students have mastered well in assessing them, I help them to Christ.
Pride vaunts self; humility values others. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”[vi] When I encourage my students to love their neighbors, to consider the needs and feelings of their fellows, and when I demonstrate this by moving out of the way in discussions and allowing them to speak, to stumble, to learn—I am bringing the kingdom a little more clearly into our classroom.
Pride condescends, but humility befriends. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”[vii] When I do not presume to be a master teacher, but instead walk alongside my students as a co-learner, sharing in their delight and insight, rejoicing in their growth, I am revealing a little of Jesus to them.
Pride hates criticism; humility heeds it. “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.”[viii] Being teachable before my students provides an example of how to accept the Lord’s correction.
As a classical educator, my goal is to serve a feast of the good, the beautiful, and the true for my students and invite them to partake with me. Classical Conversations has sought to provide this in the content for the Challenge courses. We seek what is good and beautiful and true in the design of matter, the language of Shakespeare, the wisdom of human philosophers, the polity granted us by our forebears and countrymen, the “anatomy of thought” (logic), among other things. But we can resort to no higher goodness, beauty, or truth than the Truth himself. All other things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him.
Consequently, I can measure my “success” or “failure” on this sole criterion: have I decreased, so that He may increase? This opportunity, to decrease, to empty myself, is ongoing as long as I am in the body, and this is why, every year, I decide once again in the face of all questioning and inadequacy to persevere not only in educating my children, but directing Challenge.
[i]Psalm 121:1, New International Version
[ii]Murray, Andrew. Humility: The Beauty of Holiness. (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1896), 46.
[iii]MacDonald, George. Donal Grant. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1883), 177.
[iv]Mark 8:27, 29, English Standard Version
[v]Matthew 13:16, English Standard Version
[vi]John 15:13, English Standard Version
[vii]John 15:15, English Standard Version
[viii]Matthew 11:29, King James Bible