We have several friends in various stages of crisis right now. Our hearts break with word of failing health, ending marriages, mental illness...and our family huddles and asks ourselves and each other, "What can we do?" The holidays are approaching and we look at our calendars and scour for every opportunity to be ministers of healing and comfort to the displaced, lonely, and hurting in the Body of Christ. But whether a meal to a family with a new baby or taking in a displaced family or counseling a hurting friend or shuttling to doctor visits--helping takes time. In today's world, time is like a paycheck: too many of us have it spent before it's deposited, and last minute changes can be disorienting.
I bring this up because as I review my carefully laid plans for our school year, I admit that we are falling behind. I scolded a friend recently for saying this very thing (yes, you know who you are :-) )...I told her that in homeschooling there is no such thing as "behind" unless your child loses his book on purpose! But my compulsive personality, while being brought under control in some areas such as housework, still needs some work in this area. Once it's written down it becomes obligatory, and though I'm perfectly willing to set aside a day's or a week's work for something unforeseen, the problem comes when I go back and look at what didn't get done and try to put the burden on my kids to "catch up". I've done this in a variety of ways over the past two decades, and though I've become much more flexible over the years I can still benefit from some loosening up.
You'd think, of course, after graduating four lovely, articulate, well-educated and well-rounded young women who were homeschooled during years of my problem pregnancies, a dozen major moves, caring for invalid parents, Dad's deployment to war zones, and all sorts of other upheavals, I'd sit back and trust God to cover all these interruptions with His grace and His provisions. And most of the time, I do. But I continue to have to work at the best ways to be a family who stays available and ready to serve and minister without making my children feel the burden of making sure all the other squares get filled. You know, I firmly believe that this is one of the most crucial parts of my children's education, much more important in light of eternity than quadratic equations or the Peloponnesian Wars or punctuating introductory dependent clauses. If my children leave my home with a love for, no, a real thirst for ministry, and with the tools and the drive to structure their lives in ways that proclaim and give feet to that love, then I believe I will have been a successful educator as well as mother.
So...when you're called on to set aside your lesson plans or your to-do list because you need to be God's hands and feet in the life of someone who needs you, don't be surprised if you struggle with how to "get it all done." The struggle is part of the value. Let your kids watch you struggle with this. Don't make it seem too easy. Let them know that service involves sacrifice. Let them work with you to think of ways to spread that sacrifice among you so that no one's burden is unbearable. "Bearing one another's burdens" doesn't just mean the burdens of the "helped." It also means the burdens that come to the helpers from the helping. But bearing those burdens builds muscle in our children, the kind of muscle that strengthens and builds the Body of Christ. May we never avoid an opportunity to be part of the building for the sake of checking the last thing off the "list".