Homeschool Wisdom

What Is This Rest, And Where Can We Find It? by Briana Elizabeth


There have been a few blog posts around the internet lately on a phrase that Andrew Kern is famous for, “teaching from a state of rest.” It’s one that has left many a homeschooling mother scratching her head for hours; frankly, I’ve only been able to understand it as a few ideas have come colliding together in my own heart. Though there are many soft and grace-filled posts on the state of rest out there, this is not one that is soft. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adopted sons, and partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. Sometimes grace comes in the form of a clue-by-four: this post is for those who need a little more definition in how this works out in our lives, people like myself.

Other blogs have wonderful posts on this idea and how to attain it, but I’m going to come at it from another angle: that rest starts with observing our unmet expectations and what those expectations mean, and what they shine a spotlight on. I’ve written before on Sandbox to Socrates about homeschooling being a spotlight on what can be wrong in our households; in this case, homeschooling can be a spotlight on what is wrong in our hearts.

There is a great homily on Audio Sancto called  Sloth: the Vice of Homeschoolers. When I didn’t understand the meaning of the word sloth, I was pretty taken aback by that title.

sloth

noun ˈslȯth, ˈsläth also ˈslōth

: the quality or state of being lazy

: a type of animal that lives in trees in South and Central America and that moves very slowly

Sloth is often summed up as laziness, but a truer definition is not doing what we are supposed to be doing, when we are supposed to be doing it. The cure for being slothful is knowing our place (you will hear more on that in the audio homily), which is doing what you are supposed to be doing, when you are supposed to be doing it.

Meaning, if your house is spotless, but the children’s education has fallen off the pier, that is sloth. If you have been running around like a chicken with her head off, but you are supposed to be resting, you are being slothful. If you are bound up in unmet expectations of your child’s education, are buying heaps of curriculum in hopes that it will be THE thing that gets them into Harvard, if your heart is anxious (when you are supposed to be resting in trust) you are being slothful. If you are piling worksheet after worksheet in front of your child because more of any work = success, you might be slothful.

Sometimes when sloth doesn’t look like laziness, it is shining a spotlight on our idols. What makes us anxious? Impatient? Angry? Bitter? Most of the time, it is unmet expectations. Unmet expectations of what? That our children would be gifted students and they are ‘only’ average? That the work would be easier? That our days would look like some fictionalized ideal in our heads? That the monotony of the day wouldn’t make us think that if we were out there, with a career or job, we would be doing something useful with our lives? That someone, anyone, would be a better teacher than we are?

Do we have more pride in our teaching ability, rather than trusting our children’s needs being met through us? Are we anxious and fearful of doing the wrong thing because everyone else is doing something different? Comparisons lead us to constantly question ourselves and the paths our families are on. Are we questioning our vocations as mothers and homeschoolers because the outside world looks prettier and more rewarding when our egos are are bruised because we’re ‘just’ stay at home mothers?

Look, sometimes we DO need to just clean up the house, and get the meals on the table, and put our noses to the grindstone, to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps because we’ve fallen. But even then, there is rest. There is rest because of trust. There is trust in the calling, in the vocation in our lives that is marriage and the upbringing of our children; trust in the love of Christ because he will not lead us astray; trust that when we DO get off track, He writes straight with crooked lines.

readinglesson

In the end, with sloth it all comes down to ego, to what we think what should be–and wasn’t pride the first sin? Us forgetting who God is and our place. In Him.

So. How do we teach from a state of rest? By repenting. Sometimes when we think of repenting, we think of sackcloth and ashes. But that’s not what it is. It means to turn around, to change your mind. Doesn’t that sound much easier–to walk toward something better? But part of repenting is acknowledging that we need to change our minds. Let’s not be so stuck in our ways that we are unable to change our minds.

“‘The beginning of salvation is to condemn oneself’ (Evagrius). Repentance marks the starting-point of our journey. The Greek term metanoia…signifies primarily a ‘change of mind.’ Correctly understood, repentance is not negative but positive. It means not self-pity or remorse but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity. It is to look not backward with regret but forward with home–not downwards at our own shortcomings but upwards at God’s love. It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see. To repent is to open our eyes to the light. In this sense, repentance is not just a single act, an initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of the heart and will that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life. In the words of St Isaias of Sketis, ‘God requires us to go on repenting until our last breath.’ ‘This life has been given you for repentance,” says St Isaac the Syrian. ‘Do not waste it on other things.’” Met. Kallistos Ware

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2 thoughts on “What Is This Rest, And Where Can We Find It? by Briana Elizabeth”

  1. I am going to add a bit in the comments here. I was reading this morning, and in a great coincidence, it expounded on this subject of rest.
    I was reading Father Barron’s And Now I See this morning, and came across more on repenting that expounds on Met. Ware’s words.

    “We have been summoned to attentiveness, and we have hear the word announcing the coming together of the divine and human. But what is that enables us truly to hear and respond? How can we see the light that has been so unexpectedly and suddenly turned on? Again we consult Jesus’ opening speech in Mark’s Gospel: “repent and believe the Good News.” The word so often and so misleadingly translated as “repent” is metanoiete. This Greek term is based upon two words, meta (beyond) and nous (mind or spirit), and thus in its most basic form, it means something like, “to go beyond the mind that you have.” The English word “repent” has a moralizing overtone, suggesting a change in behavior or action, whereas Jesus’ term seems to be hinting at a change at a far more fundamental level of one’s being. Jesus urges his listeners to haven their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective their mode of seeing. What jesus implies is this: the state of affairs has arrived, the divine and human have met, nit the way you customarily see is going to blind you to this novelty. In the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus expresses the same concern: “the Kingdom of God is at spread out on the earth, but people do not see it.” Minds, eyes, ears, senses, perceptions–all have to be opened up, turned around, revitalized. Metanoia soul transformation, is Jesus’ first recommendation.

    But what exactly is the problem with the way we think and see? To give an adequate answer to that question we would have to work our way through the whole of the Bible and the Christian tradition, for the attempt to name and heal spiritual blindness is one of the most basic motifs of our religion. But perhaps a simple answer can be given in these terms: we see and know and perceive with a mind of fear rather than a mind of trust. When we fear, we cling to who we are, and what we have; when we are afraid, we see ourselves as the threatened center of a hostile universe, and thus we violently defend ourselves and lash out at potential adversaries. And fear–according to so many of the biblical authors and so may of the mystics and theologians of our tradition–is a function of living our lives at the surface level, a result of forgetting our deepest identity. At the root and ground of out being, at the “center” of who we are, there is what Christianity calls “the image and likeness of God.” This means that at the foundation of our existence, we are one with the divine power which continually creates and sustains the universe; wee are held and cherished by the infinite love of Go. When we rest in this center and realize its power, we know that, in an ultimate sense, we are safe, or, in more classical religious language, “saved”. And therefore we can let go of fear and begin to live in radical trust. But when we lose sight of this rootedness of God, we live exclusively n the tiny island of the ego, and lives become dominated by fear. Fear is the “original sin” of which the church fathers speak; fear is the poison that was injected into human consciousness and human society from the beginning; fear is the debilitating and life denying element which upsets the ‘chemical balance” of both psyche and society.

    To overcome dear is to move from the pusilla anima (the small soul) to the magna anima (the great soul). WHen we are dominated by our egos, we live in a very narrow space, in the angustiae (the straits) between this fear and that, between this attachment and that. But when we surrender in trust to the bering power of God, our souls become greg, roomy, expansive. We realize that we are connected to all things and to the creative energy of the whole cosmos. Interestingly, the term magna anima shares a Sanskrit root with the word mahatma, and both mean “great soul.” What Jesus calls for in metanoia is the transformation from the terrified and self-regarding small soul to the confident and soaring great soul. The seeing of the Kingdom, in short, is not for the pusillanimous but for the magnanimous.”

    And Now I See, by Fr. Robert Barron, pgs 4-6.

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