As a homeschooling parent, a little part of my mind exists in a constant state of panic. After all, I’ve taken four children’s futures into my own rather shaky grasp. That part of my mind, which I think of as The Voice of Fear, greets every setback with wild assumptions that I will fail my children and be judged for it.
It goes something like this:
Me (helping my 7-year-old with math): How about if you make your 9s like this? That one looks like a zero.
Ranger: It looks like a 9 to me.
Me: Other people can’t read it, though.
Voice of Fear: I see the future! He’s applying for his first job, and they look at the resume and can’t read his phone number (which will be 999-990-990099…)
Me: That’s too many numbers.
Voice of Fear: Telephone numbers are bigger in the future. The prospective employer can’t call him back because she can’t read his numbers. And she shakes her head and says, “Who taught him to write his 9s like that? Whoever did that completely ruined his chances for a satisfying career…”
Me (raising my voice at 7-year-old Ranger): Erase that 9 and write it this way! Stop arguing with me! Don’t you want to get a job?
I’ve been letting Voice of Fear speak through me as long as I’ve been a parent, and definitely throughout my homeschooling years. When a child has trouble remembering how to make her Gs, I envision her passed over for a scholarship because of her handwriting. When a kid says that we fought the Revolutionary War against…um…Canada?, I can already hear the laughter that follows him as he flees from his college history class. The Voice of Fear has several ready-made scenes available featuring my children, as adults, floundering through life unprepared. And everyone looking on shakes their heads and remarks, “Who was that person’s teacher…?”
See, that’s the kicker right there. It’s not just that I’m afraid my children will struggle in life. I also already feel the derision and judgement heaped upon my head. My ego can’t bear that thought.
So I’ve always been prone to come down too hard on my children’s developing skills. As for their actual character flaws? I’ve apologized to my children, and I’d rather just draw a curtain over some of those episodes, thank you.
The good news is that as my children grow up and mature…well, so do I. My youthful understanding of God’s grace was “the power God gives us so we can obey him.” If I failed, then it was my fault for not obeying Him enough to get enough grace. With age comes a little more wisdom. I now rest in the assurance that don’t have to do everything good enough; God is already there, bringing good even out of my mistakes.
I still feel the panic, but I’ve learned not to say everything the Voice of Fear puts into my head.
About two weeks ago, the Holy Spirit dropped in a little moment of revelation. I heard the Voice of Fear, and for the first time realized that it wasn’t speaking actual truth to me.
It went something like this:
Me (reading Gamerboy’s half-hearted writing assignment): He didn’t put a whole lot of effort into this.
Voice of Fear: He’s going to be a slacker adult. And everybody will shake their heads and say, “Didn’t their mom teach them anything?”
Me (panic rising): Oh my gosh, I need to make him do this all over again! And make him see the importance of doing every single thing to the best of his ability, and to put his heart into it, and…
[Insert revelation from Holy Spirit here]
Me: Hang on. He did the assignment. He just didn’t care very much about it. That’s okay.
Voice of Fear: No, no, it’s not okay! You need to make him do it perfectly! People will judge you! Sneer at you!
Me: Only villains in movies sneer.
Voice of Fear: Not true—that lady at the grocery store that time definitely sneered.
Me: You know what? I’ll just have him polish this up a little. It’s fine.
Voice of Fear (a little desperate): But I see the future! People will shake their heads…!
Me: No, I’m onto you now. You see what’s possible, but not necessarily what’s true.
It still happens—I still panic, and sometimes I still give words to the fear. But I can say now that I’m learning to hear the Voice of Fear for what it is. I can’t know or control the future; all I can do is work hard now, and trust the rest to God’s grace.
Voice of Fear: I’m…speechless.
Me: That’s the point.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; second image courtesy of Sara Jones.