Parents Agonize Over School Decisions.
This isn’t an exact headline, but very well could be one of the hundreds that have shown up in my news and social feeds over the past two weeks. And honestly, this headline isn’t wrong. Our family, friends, and communities have wrestled with what we should do as the school year rapidly approaches.
It seems as if every time I open Facebook or Twitter, I am bombarded with information from legitimate experts who are telling me opposite things about how safe my kids are or aren’t and if they should or shouldn’t attend in-person schooling. It can be very overwhelming, and if I am honest, I have told multiple friends that I was going to go hibernate in my closet and asked them to come get me when all of this is over.
Kids, jobs, and life, however, make this option impractical, but what do we do with this fear? How do we make safe decisions? Where do we find truth that is absolute? The answer to all of these questions is with our hope in Jesus and His Word.
Scripture tells us countless times to “fear not.” The truth is, the Creator of the universe created our children. He knows them by name. He knows the number of hairs on their heads. And, as hard as it is for us parents to imagine, He loves them more than we even can comprehend. He is sovereign and not shaken by the turmoil that His children face. He can whisper, “stop,” and this whole mess can go away. But even if He doesn’t, He is in control.
For a type-A planner like me, this is not necessarily what I like to hear. I like to plan everything and have it labeled, scheduled, and color-coordinated in my pretty, new planner. But it’s times like these that we believers have to decide: do we trust God or do we not?
We can be honest with each other and with God. I’ll go first: more than once during this season, I have had to confess to God that I didn’t necessarily trust Him in this, but that I wanted to. I am completely inadequate, Lord, and I need You, Jesus. Not only for my salvation, but for schooling decisions, and marital issues, and for how to love my neighbors, and for how to spend my money, and for forgiveness when I do none of these things right. And it’s in the moments of us confessing this weakness that our great Rescuer gets glory.
This is another moment for His plan of redemption to shine, for when we are unable, He is able. When we can’t, He can. When it is impossible for us, He says that nothing is impossible for Him. He is always the answer. He offers us rest and peace and He hears our cries. So when chaos and the headlines and the contradictory data come pounding at your door, remember who He is.
Encouragement for Parents
The fact is that every option that faces us this year has a set of pros and cons. As your friend, and as a fellow mom wrestling with what feels like a multiple-choice test that doesn’t have the right answer as the option, I’d like to offer the following in the way of encouragement:
1. You aren’t in this alone.
You have parents all over the world facing the very same challenges that you’re facing. And even more, a God who sees you and hears you, and who will never leave you, even if you feel your faith begin to waiver. Confess your weakness and tell God how much you need Him.
2. Do not be overcome by fear. Meditate on Scripture.
Some of my favorites:
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – John 16:33
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (emphasis mine)
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4
3. Remember that this is temporary.
I know that we all have basically lived ten decades since January of this year, but the truth is that this will pass. Fast from social media and every breaking news notification. It will all be there when you get back, but breaking the cycle of constant chaos and allowing yourself rest and time away will be a good mental and emotional (and spiritual) exercise.
4. Focus on the most important thing.
It is very easy for us as parents to get caught up in the laundry list of things that the world tells us that we have to do for our kids. Enroll them in 34 sports and arts programs; live in the best school district; make sure they’re taking high quality vitamins; have them read for 29.4 minutes a day; make sure they’re outside enough but only with the right kind of sunscreen; don’t let them be on tablets but make sure they learn how to code when they’re 3—the list is long and it’s impossible.
While these can all be great and noble things, the thing that our Father asks of us is for us to “imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). This is an opportunity to teach our kids about how God doesn’t change and that He is absolutely in control. Declare that your family is going to remember that God is good and that He loves us, even when life looks really hard.
5. Identify who is at fault and direct your anger toward him.
It is really easy right now when we are tired, weary, and frustrated for us to start pointing fingers at people who disagree with our views or who are taking different measures to care for their families. Show grace and give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people are just trying to do the best they can, and us showing each other mercy and grace is another opportunity for us to give God the glory and be a light in a very dark, very hopeless world.
Plus, Scripture is clear about who is at fault: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rules, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, against spiritual forces in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12) To sum it up: Love your neighbor. Be on guard against Satan.
6. To quote Mr. Roger’s mother: “Look for the helpers.”
Or maybe, church, we should be those helpers to whom the world is looking. While we are all in the same theoretical boat, our positions on the boat are all very different.
There are homes with two working parents or single parents who are absolutely relying on God to make a way for their children this year because they can’t just not work. There are families with special needs children who need special therapies that schools have traditionally provided. There are families with medically fragile children who can’t risk being infected by a virus because it does mean life or death.
Countless other scenarios exist and our question to ourselves should be: how can I fill in the gap? How can I love my neighbor? Can I form a co-op in my neighborhood to help struggling moms and dads? Can I drop off a dinner for parents who work all day and then come home to teach all evening? Can I tutor a child whose mom and dad don’t speak English fluently? Can I drop groceries off at a food bank because some kids aren’t getting daily meals anymore? How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus? How can I share the gospel in words and deeds?
I wish I had a simple-to-follow 3-step program that would land us all in a much easier place. These are real struggles that parents, families, and educators are facing, and there’s not an easy answer. What we can trust, though, is God’s Word, and what I can offer you is a prayer.
A Prayer for Parents
You are good. You have not left us or forgotten about us, and You have not stopped working for us. Thank You for making a way for us in Jesus to experience an eternity with You.
Lord, we are absolutely at a loss for how to proceed this school year. We know that You have given us these children to steward and we know that this timing is no accident. You knew we would be sitting on our knees crying out to You for help, and Lord, we know You are hearing our cries.
Father, for the moms and dads and educators who don’t see a way or even know what to pray, we know You have provided your Spirit who intercedes for us in heaven (Romans 8:26). God, for all of us who genuinely want to be wise and do what’s best for our kids, but are paralyzed by all the things we just don’t know, we hold onto the promise that You are God who grants us wisdom and discernment when we ask for it in faith (James 1:5).
Father, hold us tightly in your grip. Encourage our hearts. Give us opportunities to love our neighbors and help us to be obedient when You ask us to be sacrificial. We ask You to help us make decisions in the coming days and weeks, and for protection over our kids, families, teachers, and school staff. God, we ask You to help us to stand firm against Satan’s attacks of fear, and for our hearts instead to be overwhelmed with peace, knowing that You have already conquered death and this world (John 16:33).
Lord, during this time, may Your power be on display; may Your glory be seen; may parents and children and teachers come to know You as Savior as a result of Your provision that we trust you for; and may praise be on our lips as we tell of all of the ways You have and will continue to work for us. To You be the glory. In the name of Jesus, we ask these things. Amen.