My husband likes to tease me about being a Millennial. He can do that because he’s a few years older than I am, a GenX-er by the skin of his teeth. My birthyear, however, does land me squarely on the older end of that generation now called Millennials. But my cohort wasn’t always called that. If you, like me, grew up in the 90’s, perhaps you remember a time when we were called Generation Y. Not just Y, as in the letter after X, but also Y, as in the question. Before that deep question was eclipsed in apparent importance by our consumer habits, we were meant to be the post-postmodern generation; the ones in search of the meaning and truth that those before us had supposedly discarded.
Well, 2020 just might be our year. This has been a year of whys.
Why disease? Why poverty? Why racism?
Why violence? Why lawlessness? Why hatred?
Why civil unrest? Why abridgement of our liberties?
Why these million small, sad losses? Why all these griefs, both the minor and the monumental?
Maybe you, like me, have asked Him this next question too:
Why don’t you come already? Why don’t you deliver us?
The entire sweep of human history is peppered with instability, violence, and suffering. Empires rise and fall, and peoples the world over have faced hardships I cannot begin to fathom. But now in 2020, conditions turn a little bit southward in my life of unprecedented comfort, and I begin to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The prayer itself is a fine one, but I know my own heart. Now I have some whys to reckon with. Why wasn’t that prayer always on my lips as fervently as it is now? How much of an idol was my life before this March, that I was so loath to leave it? But also this: why do I ask for deliverance now? Do I doubt His goodness? Am I ungrateful for His gifts? Certainly I am. That I am able both to be ungrateful for and also to make idols of God’s good gifts is a stinging testament to the ugliness of my heart. Why 2020? I don’t know the reasons, but one clear product of this difficult year is a new lens through which to view and grapple with my own sin.
And grapple I must. Day in and day out I face life with the young people who have been entrusted to me. We can’t just check out and binge watch Netflix at my house. There are academics and character training and catechesis. Piano practice and peanut butter sandwiches. Laundry and skinned knees and family prayer. All of the small things that fill our days, the sum of which is the bringing up and education of our kids: all of these continue regardless of what is happening outside of our home. My sorrow and worry about the world outside cannot, must not interrupt the carrying out of this God-given vocation. And He graciously gives me the strength to push through my anxieties, rest in His grace, and doggedly run this race marked out for me. However the earthly institutions around us may waver, crumble, or otherwise be made unavailable, God’s institution of family stands. Our families are imperfect, sometimes even dysfunctional. They are composed of sinners. As the social supports surrounding us have fallen away this year, the cracks in our family structures have been thrown into sharp relief. Why 2020? I don’t know the reasons, but here again is that laser-like lens, showing me the weak points and places of neglect. Why do we struggle in this or that area? Why is this relationship strained? How does God’s Word direct us? How can we pray? What would He have us do? Our families will never be perfect in this life, but as we are continually being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, so we will continually strive to orient our homes toward heaven.
Often our days are an uphill battle. Children whine about assignments. This one doesn’t remember how to read an analog clock, though I have taught him a dozen times. That one appears to be on some sort of reading strike. There is bickering, chasing, teasing. It seems that no one can spell, and everyone is very loud most of the time. And I ask why. What is the point when everything around us is a mess anyway? Why am I doing this? Simply, because it has been given me to do. Because it is of the utmost importance. Because, even though it can be frustrating and overwhelmingly arduous, I want to do it, and do it well. And so I turn that why in a slightly different direction. Why do I educate my children? For what purpose? I look at the world around me, and I see more clearly than ever before that I am certainly not educating these children for this world. My goal for them, first and foremost, is heaven. I know this, yes. But sometimes I need to remember it, to really consider the implications. You might think that if heaven is the goal, then I might place less importance on academics. Not at all! I am raising eternal souls bound for glory. I want them to be salt and light. I want them to be well equipped to carry out whatever vocations God may grant them in this life and to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that they have. The thoughts they think, the words they speak and write, the interactions they have in this world will have eternal consequences, both for them and for those they touch. That my eye is on heaven makes all aspects of their education MORE important, not less. So I want to choose with intention. Why read this book? Why invest time here? Why welcome this influence?
In a way, the difficulties of this year are a great gift to the Christian parent. The cultural voices in our ears and the screens at our fingertips drive us toward mindless consumption of both material things and, perhaps more destructively, endless rabbit holes of entertainment. That name change from Generation Y to Millennial is actually quite apt; it’s easy for us to forget why as we are sucked ever deeper into the digital landscape and our (often superficially) busy lives. It’s easy to be lulled into autopilot, but this year has shaken us awake with interruption after startling interruption. Amid the losses and disappointments, we are granted an invitation to stop and consider why. We are not here merely to take pleasure in God’s gifts, but to share the story of His Greatest Gift and to point our neighbors toward heaven. This time with my children is not just for me to enjoy when enjoyment is possible and endure when it is not, it is a resource for me to steward wisely with the eternal goal in mind. I fail in this daily. Praise God for His full and free forgiveness to parents who let the wrong balls drop, mis-prioritize, and expend their family’s time and attention on earthly distractions while neglecting the one thing that is truly needful. Parents like me.
Strive. Fail. Repent. Strive again. He is faithful, and He calls us back again and again.
“Come, Lord Jesus!” This has rightly been the prayer of the Christian church from her beginning. We long to be with our Lord and to be delivered both from this sinful world and from the sin that plagues our own hearts. This hard year has been a reminder that I’m not supposed to be comfortable and at home in this world. Yet I can’t wish myself out of it either. God has placed powerfully important whys in my life, vocations that I am tasked with carrying out as long as He grants me time here on this earth. When we falter and fail in our vocations, He forgives and sustains us. He empowers us to do the work He has prepared in advance for us to do. In this world we will have trouble, but take heart dear friend, He has overcome the world. As we live each day given us in the freedom of His grace, let us not grow weary of doing good, of being His hands and feet to our children and our neighbors in this dark world.
Amanda Moldstad is a co-founder of the Lutheran Homeschool Association. She and her husband, John, homeschool their five children in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.