When my kids were younger, the house was full of sounds. Voices, laughter, games, music. Oh yes, there was so much music. That is what I miss the most. The piano, the guitars, the banjo, the sounds of my son recording music over my head; that tell-tale sound of the metronome that went with his recording software, and the snippets of guitar riffs played over and over, until done to perfection.
And then the last one was gone, and the house fell silent, except for the sound of the dog snoring.
When they are younger, we crave the silence. Once we have all the silence we want, the thrill can wear off quickly, depending on the day. We have a strange new relationship with the silence. We get used to it, so that when they arrive for holidays with their laundry and their buddies, it feels so loud. We can't believe we're kind of glad when it's quiet again; and yet, two days later the silence is screaming again.
The silence can also be a time when our hearts may revolt on us a little. We begin to replay things in our minds, second-guessing ourselves, wondering about the choices our kids are making. Did we do everything to the best of our ability? Recrimination loves the silence. The silence is a time when comparison creeps in. We may indulge in a little online comparison with the current young mothers of the day: "Wow, did I ever botch things!" Our kids didn't hear the catechism in utero! We just wanted to get through the day, mostly. It's stupid enough to compare ourselves to women we know right now; there's an even more profound stupidity in comparing our former selves. What can we do but trust God?
In the silence, we think, "Why didn't anyone ever tell us it would be this difficult?" We thought that once they could do up their zippers on their own, cut their own food, and tell time, life would magically take on the perfect rhythm. We thought that as long as we homeschooled them and utilized the right Latin curriculum we would have perfect children. In the silence, we are reminded that if we teach a child to think for himself, he will do that, and we may just not like that, not one little bit.
The silence is a time when we can become discontent with where we have been. It's a teribbly destructive game to play, this game of looking over our shoulder and fearing the future. The grass is always greener somewhere else, and it can be tempting to play at a little revisionist history, wishing for those halcyon days when the biggest problem of the moment was the peanut butter and jelly stuck to the plates. We often have short memories and forget how physically exhausting it all was.
It is often in the silence, after the children leave, that women feel shaken to their core. What does this mean for me? For a woman like me, one with no elaborate career to return to, I have occasionally wondered if I am now faced with re-inventing myself. I know that's a ridiculous notion, because I believe in God's sovereignty, and I know that He wants to fulfill His plans in me. I have no worries about being given something to do. However, those moments of being shaken can seep in when the silence has lasted perhaps a bit too long.
This time when there are no children at home and no grandchildren to play with is an uneasy one for me. I have a lot of time on my hands, but what to do with it? Serve God, but how? He has given me so much freedom to serve. How to best accomplish that? There is the lure of trying to make a name for oneself pitted against the understanding of the beauty of the quiet life. There is a restlessness that wants to do something, those somethings I didn't have the chance to do when the silence was a precious commodity.
I am reminded of these words in Psalm 62:
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He is my rock and my salvation
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Whatever each day holds for me, my goal is to remain unshaken. I have had my moments in these years of my nest emptying when I have had pale glimpses into what it would be like to fall. I don't want that. I want to be firm and unshaken. I'm thankful He is the one to keep me from being shaken.
When my younger son was in high school, he spent the day with a friend. When he came home, expressing his hunger, I asked in surprise, "Didn't his mother feed you?" To which he replied, "No. Not every mother is like you." My son was beginning to see that not all kids live his life.
Once out of homeschool and into public school, my kids all began to see that reality. Whether it was the classmate whose mother smoked weed, the kid whose father left the family for a younger woman, the one whose kitchen cupboards were consistently empty, or the kid whose mother didn't care where he was at midnight, my children were introduced to families completely unlike their own.
I know there are those who would shield their kids from such things. In homeschooling circles, I was a traitor for allowing my kids into the system, thus taking them out of the hothouse. While there are things about public high school I found frustrating (mostly in the quality of education provided), I think it was not a bad thing that my kids were introduced to what broken looks like up close and personal.
Kids who grow up in church are not always exposed to bad things. Some are, but many aren't until they leave home. We are all broken deep down, but often, in the more santized environment of the church, we don't always see that. We can take them for a day of street evangelism or a work project in a developing country, and those are good. But having them live side by side with needy people who look just like them is not a bad thing, either. The reality is that the ones with serious family issues walk among us.
My youngest child, especially, knew a lot of people with lives that were heart-rending. He was friendly with them, talked to them, and invited them over to eat molasses cookies. When I expressed a little concern about him spending time with these kids, my husband reminded me that God could have been putting this young person in our midst for a reason.
Young people often have a sense of entitlement. It's easy for us to condemn others for their lives while we sit comfortably fed each night, in a well cared for home, with a father and husband who arrives home sober every night. Not every family lives like that. When I was in youth ministry and I would hear the teens talk in disparaging terms about some of their unsaved friends, it bothered me a lot. There was only one thing separating them from being exactly like those kids they bashed: the grace of God.
There are so many things we as Christian parents want our children to learn. I think mercy needs to be up at the top of the list. We were shown mercy; we must show it to others. We must show compassion for the lost, not condemnation. They are, after all, condemned already. Learning mercy is assisted by teaching gratitude. The reality is that my family has what it has because of God and nothing else. We live a privileged life. Our kids live privileged lives. That privilege should make them thankful, and merciful to others who are struggling.
From Kevin Vanhoozer's Is There a Meaning in this Text?
The clarity of Scripture means that understanding is possible, not that it is easy. Redeeming the text does not mean reconciling all interpretive conflicts. The clarity of Scripture is neither an absolute value nor an abstract property, but a specific function relative to its particular aim: to witness to Christ.
The clarity of Scripture in other words, does not mean that we will know everything there is to know about the text, but that we will know enough to be able, and responsible, to respond to the subject matter. The clarity of Scripture is not a matter of its obviousness so much as its efficacy; the Bible is clear enough to render its communicative action effective.
Daily; hourly, if necessary:
The source of strength is the knowledge of God, recalled, reviewed, refocused, thought through, and applied to the matters in hand.