A Call for Community
August 17, 2020 · by Jacy Lee Pulford
If this year has taught us anything, it is to never say never.
From the shock of how the Coronavirus affected our country, to the global devastations that saddened our hearts, to the increase of violence and need for social justice in our nation, the year of 2020 was not at all what we had planned. Throw in the day-to-day personal and professional changes many of us had to endure or make, and it’s no wonder anxiety and depression are at an all-time high.
At the top of the list of the people impacted by the confusion and chaos lately are children and those who care for them. We watched as tiny ears had to be told their schools would be shut down and that learning would be done on a computer at home. Those who teach and learn at home had their outside resources restricted and schedules hacked. Caregivers and parents were limited to what kind of activities the children could participate in. Playgrounds closed. Sports teams were canceled. Extra programs were postponed. We suffered a loss of normalcy, and we all felt it in different ways.
Now here we are approaching the fall season, and instead of the usual bustling of excitement for a new school year and new opportunities, we’re met with more questions and disappointments. As a homeschooling mother of two children, I have seen many parents make the difficult choice to stay home and begin their own homeschooling journey with their kids. I have seen working mothers hold fast to the hope that their children would not lose out on an enriched public school experience. So holding their breath, they sign up their babies to attend a school that will be operating differently than we’re used to. And I have seen other mothers choose to take advantage of the educator’s option for remote learning, trying to balance the busyness of real life and making sure their children have a good education online.
But here is another thing I have witnessed and what I want to bring to our attention right now: Along with these difficult choices that parents everywhere across the US have to make comes a cloud of judgment and pride. Those same mothers worried and fretting over the decisions about their child’s education turned around and judged the choices another mother was making. I have seen social media posts condemning parents who are sending their children to school, claiming they must not love them enough to keep them safe at home. Other posts slammed those who decided to homeschool, saying they’re living in fear and not of faith. And then there are those within the homeschooling community who have been walking that road for some time, dismissing the option of remote learning as nothing more than public school propaganda, threatening their right to teach from the freedom of such restrictions.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:23-27).
So, what is the right answer? Is there one?
From my experience, every family has its own needs. To say that one family is making a mistake as far as education goes, only God can truly know that answer. Only God can see the hearts of the parents and children and know exactly what they need to do.
In Proverbs, we are told to keep our hearts with all diligence, or to put it plainly, to guard it with all we have. The reason for this? Because out of our hearts come the issues, or outgoings, of life. What we manifest within our hearts will eventually be visible for the world to see. This is true as we see such a tension between parents and what they believe is the right choice when it comes to how to educate children during this time.
But we are also told that we must “put away” a froward mouth and perverse lips. Perverse doesn’t have to do with anything sensual. It has to do with a distorting of truth. And the truth is, as the Word says, we must “look right on and let [our] eyelids look straight before [us].” We are not supposed to look around and judge another parent’s choice for how they want to continue their child’s education. We can have our own spiritual convictions in the bigger scheme of things. Yet, being outspoken about a mother’s education choice for her child needs discernment and self-control.
What would our churches look like if every child were homeschooled? What would our congregations reflect if every child were public-schooled? This we don’t know, and it’s honestly missing the broader scope. God doesn’t want us fighting over which choice is the superior one because our Superior One is over us all! We are all humans, on the same page. None of us are kings or queens over the choices of everyone.
So I propose a call for community. Instead of seeing each decision as a competition, let’s look at it as an invitation for prayer. Maybe instead of casting a stone, we can cast a blessing. Perhaps instead of letting out our perverseness on a Facebook post for all to see, we silently ask the Lord to be with them and love them. Because none of this warring is going to bring people closer to God. In fact, blasting a parent for their choice in their child’s education only points to the issues within your own heart.
We are not in competition. We are in community. And even with those who do not walk the same road of faith as we do, we must be careful in how we interact. Soon the buses will be filled with frightened little faces wearing masks, wishing they could stay under their covers in bed. Soon there will be teenagers beginning their last year of high school at the dining room table instead of a table full of friends. Soon there will be tiny fingers pounding a keyboard in a rush because their Zoom schedule is overwhelming.
Give grace. Show love. Be a blessing. No choice is easier than another. Let us ask God to help us take care of the family we have and meet their needs -- while also championing one another through difficult choices, binding as an uplifting community full of overflowing prayers and forgiving love. Allowing the power of community to bring us together in beautiful ways. So when someone needs a hand to help them through another difficult trial, our hearts will be in the right place to reach out and show them Jesus.