Twice in the past couple of weeks I have been told that I am brave. But I know that I am not.
The first was a bantering between two baristas while I waited for my London Fog, about how brave I was to homeschool, about how they could never do that. I think I mumbled something like, “Oh, I’m sure you could…” while the milk was getting foamed but I didn’t feel invited to the conversation. After the second time of reassuring me of my lioness super educator powers that mere moms do not possess, I stood there with my cup in hand and said, “Actually…I think YOU are the brave ones…sending your children to school…I’m not sure I could do that…” Suddenly both were agreeing with me, combating with one another about whose kid had it worse: poor teachers, mean kids, dumb work, peer pressure (at six years old), boredom during the summer. Their words, not mine. I thanked them for my drink and left. But I didn’t feel brave.
The second time was from a sweet elderly woman who looked me straight in the eye after our pregnancy announcement and gave me the same pronouncement: I must be (as in “am”, not “ought to be”) very brave. Actually, when I consider how I have declined to correct other’s assumptions of my childbearing beliefs, I see that I have perhaps neglected to
put up my dukes stand up for myself (I do admit, however, muscle strain from eye rolling, in private). Perhaps a start? One, I had never even heard of the “quiverful movement” until I had three or four children; perhaps I became a member by default rather than by consideration and commitment. Secondly, I never made any sort of law regarding birth control, other than nothing ought to take the life of an innocent human being once conceived. Third, I never felt like I was marching to some sort of extraordinary righteousness by having any number of children; actually, I was humbled that I was able to conceive any at all after a long, sad stay in “why can’t we get pregnant?” land. Bravery? How about fear of infertility? How about simply not wanting anyone missing from our family? How about always having room for “just one more”?
There are some things I understand from Scripture, and I am a simple reader that tries not to read things into the text that aren’t there (any writer knows how annoying that is). One, I am to be a keeper at home. Two, children are a blessing. Three, I am under the protection and authority of my husband. And, as I shared in my book Present, I am to keep my feet (as it were) at home…not to go gadding about from post to post or to be distracted and captivated by a screen at the expense of my relationship with God or with my family.
These things I know sound archaic (to put it nicely). In fact, I have been shunned and slandered, both privately and publicly, sometimes “in jest” and sometimes in earnest. It’s part of the reason I cower and desire to play like Elizabeth and hide my pregnancy! In every case of worldly finger wagging (or worse), no civil conversation or curiosity with me preceded it, and according to those waggers, I am truly not brave but depraved. I am considered shun-shame-and-slander worthy. So they do. And I remember from the previous Book mentioned that out of the heart the mouth speaks and so I am sad but hardly surprised.
I am neither brave nor depraved. Rather, in humility, repentance and faith, I have met and been cleansed by Almighty God who has clothed me in His righteousness and now calls me friend. And I know because of that, I walk a narrow road that can get pretty lonely in terms of company. At times I have doubts as I kick pebbles along the way about the choices I make. Am I being faithful or foolish? ( the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…). Am I being sober or stubborn? (No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God…So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows...). As I walk up difficult hills of uncertainties or trials, I have no idea if a pleasant stroll through a beautiful meadow is up ahead or if rocks are going to crumble underneath me as I climb yet higher. All I know is that I am to press on, to run the race, to finish and then to die well.
My walk with the Lord is not results oriented. I can’t claim that my homeschooled kids will be honor students or that I will never have children with challenges (obviously). I can’t guarantee that my husband won’t ever leave me or that my house won’t burn down. I walk with the Lord simply because He walks with me and I want to go where He is going. Jesus is the best companion ever! He is the One who leads the way, who whispers, “This is the way….walk in it…” and who, even while I am attempting to heft my own worries and burdens says to me, “Give Me your burdens…let Me carry them…” Now and then He allows me to discern the end of those who mock my clinginess to God, and when He intercedes for me in such tangible ways I both fear and love Him all the more.
I don’t think this means I am brave and heroic. It’s more like I am broken and hungry. I am a weak little sparrow who knows from where the crumbs come for my care. I hear His voice when He says to “fear not” but I also stay put in the palm of His pierced hand, sometimes with great fear on this narrow path of His. I do not know that I will ever be really brave or thick-skinned in this world. All I know is that I am content with Jesus, and that someday I know I will fearlessly fly. He will see to that.