Why Proverbs 22:6 Needs a Leash5:22 AM
I don't know, exactly, why this irks me so much or why I remember it like nails on the chalkboard, but it does and I do. Perhaps it's because it happens so frequently. Perhaps because it is so incongruous. Perhaps because I am a notoriously independent character.
In any case, I receive much fan mail on random blog posts that goes something like this: "Bailey, your parents have done such an amazing job raising you! It's evident that you have two good parents who really get it" -- and other such accolades that would be perfectly acceptable were it not painfully obvious that we weren't discussing parenting. It hurts. Not because my parents haven't done an amazing job. They have. Not because my parents don't get it. They do. It hurts because I am an individual.
I often write, mostly at Raising Homemakers, about how my mother especially has influenced me and how downright awesome she is. I do wish to hear my parents praised and do try to rise up and honor them. I understand that much of who I am was directly or indirectly shaped by two godly parents and to deny it would be lies.
But I'm still an individual.
And it bothers me because often I see, in the homeschooling community especially, a divine light shown on perfect parents and their perfect children. Another comment that slightly bothers me is when sweet mothers tell me they hope to raise daughters like me.
Please, no. Spare yourself.
I think this stems from Proverbs 22:6 let off the leash of context. Some teachers promise perfect children (after following their books and programs exactly) due to the unequivocal guarantee from said verse. Children and parenting became a formula. And if there's anything anyone needs to know about anybody, humans are not formulas. They're not functions: insert starting point and end up with a perfectly plotted existence.
I'm not a formula. Believe me, I am who I am because my decisions, my experiences and my personality, as well as good parenting and being raised in a Christian home, were unique to me. When people immediately praise my parents for any good writing I happen to crank out or any good point I happen to stumble upon, they neglect to take note that I am an individual and that I explore and create distinctly from my own perspective.
(And then the homeschool naysayers pile in, pitying our brainwashed existence, hoping discreetly that we can "get out" -- granting that some are "fairly smart" for being so tragically limited. It disgusts me the way people on both sides treat Christian kids like brainless products of their parents instead of any other child in a loving relationship.)
I say this not only to puff my own image up but because it breaks my heart to see moms fretting over their children's lives as if they could do just a little more to fix all their problems. It breaks my heart to see good parents taking the blame for their children's rebellion. "Good heavens," we think of these poor souls, "they broke the formula. Here's where you went wrong. Read this book. Follow this style. But anyway, it's too late for you."
That is a lie. There is always something we could have done. There are always mistakes in imperfect people -- children and parents alike. The most ineffective antidote is turning parents into gods. Parents do that by taking Proverbs 22:6 and running it as a promise. Children and their psychologists do it by tracing every single problem back to the parents' responsibility. All roads, in the end, lead home, but not all responsibility does. Every man's child is an individual.
This attitude disturbs me on another level -- it totally precludes the grace and power of God. That stellar homeschooler's child? He's the way he is because his mother used this curriculum and his father read that devotional. He's the way he is because he didn't watch tv, because he didn't go to public school, because he grew up in a good church that didn't have a -- slight intake of nervous breath -- youth group.
Someone asked me if I thought I'd still be a Christian if I had been born and raised in, say, a practicing Hindu family. Yes, I would be. The same curiosity I use to hunt out the roots of the Christian practices and principles I would probably apply to my Hindu beliefs. Anyone who knows me knows I don't take a dogmatic statement lying down. (That's where my obsessive-compulsive geekiness comes from, I do believe.) But beyond all that, I am a Christian because my Savior reached out to me, reached out to those sins hiding under good upbringing and good little Sunday school girl answers. I don't base my faith on my parents, my family or my homeschooling. I base it on the truth that I know, that I've experienced, and that the Spirit has revealed to me through His word and His presence. I am saved because of His grace, not my upbringing; I am who I am because He is mine, not because I attend daily parental indoctrination, not because I skipped public school, not because of any other external thing.
The grace of God reaches through all mistakes, the only thing we all do best.
If I write about my amazing parents, feel free to share my applause. If I don't, please direct all glory to God alone.