Before I tell you the lessons my mentor taught me, I have to tell you how we met. I was in the valley. It was 2019. My husband had had a stroke, dear friends and family members had been diagnosed with cancer, my kids had made some choices that made me feel like a failure, and the day before, my new puppy had died. I was at a volleyball match out of town and had just learned that the only mom I chatted with wasn’t going to be there.
I walked into the gym and the woman called me up to sit next to her and her husband. I knew that they had homeschooled their 11 children and that their youngest was on my daughter’s volleyball team. I noticed that she was always stylishly dressed, but that’s all I knew.
I don’t remember any of the small talk we made before she taught me my first lesson. It was this:
#1 God loves you.
Yep, it was the Sunday school mantra, the billboard cliche all the way. But she kept repeating it. “He loves you soooo much,” she said.
“Yeah, I know,” I thought. “I’m a Christian. I know He loves me. He sent His Son Jesus to die for me so I can live with Him eternally. Why is she telling me this?” That day I didn’t have an answer to that.
But months later I knew why she was saying it. With everything I’d experienced in the previous year, I doubted that God loved me. Sure, He loved me in an esoteric, this is what’s best for you, I’m the boss kind of way. But He couldn’t possibly love me like a daddy. Not the way things had been going.
He knew that’s what I was thinking. He knew I thought He didn’t care. And so He sent Sandy to say He loved me. And to keep saying it until I really heard it.
Since then I’ve realized that we homeschool moms are vulnerable to the lie that God doesn’t really love us. Subconsciously we so often think, “If you really loved me, you’d…” fill in the blank. But He does really love us and has already given us everything to prove it. He is working all things together for our good. Now I thank Him for having me in such a low place that I could really see the lie I was believing. I thank Him for arranging the circumstances that allowed me to meet a woman who would be a powerful and much-needed mentor.
Lesson #1 is God loves you.
Lesson #2 is your children are dirty, rotten sinners.
That seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? But that’s what Sandy said. And strangely enough, it’s what I needed to hear. I needed to know that despite all the Bible teaching, church going, and fervent prayer, that my kids were still sinners who would make mistakes. It pointed out another lie I was believing deep, deep down. I thought that if I did my job right that my children would do right. But that’s not necessarily the case, and we know it isn’t. I think we cling to this lie that homeschooling is a guarantee because it means we’re in control. Sad to say, we are not.
The way Sandy and her husband talked about their kids’ mistakes surprised me. They laughed , like they weren’t to blame at all. I was used to the veteran homeschoolers who believed that other people’s prodigals were always the parents’ responsibility. It was a sign of homeschooling gone wrong, of a failure in faith. I had bought into that thinking, despite the story of the prodigal son. There is no evidence that either the prodigal or the older, prideful son went wrong because of something the father did. And if we acknowledge that the father represents God in the story, how can we feel responsible for these dirty, rotten sinners? And that’s what they are. That was lesson #2.
Lesson #3 was like it. I’m a dirty, rotten sinner, too.
Sandy told me how her husband introduced her to Christ in college. Looking at her and her beautiful family, I assumed that she had done everything right after that day. But I was wrong. She told me about her selfishness and unhappiness in her marriage early on that had her wanting to leave. I was so surprised!
Even though I’m a psychologist who has heard people’s darkest secrets, I still assume that most people are better than I am. That means I have to hide and cover up my sin. It wouldn’t do for people to know how bad I really am. But Sandy knew without me telling her a thing because she knows how bad she is without Jesus. And it doesn’t make her want to quit. Not anymore. She knows that Jesus came for her while she was still a sinner. I know that, too, and want to stop hiding. Lesson #3 is I’m a dirty, rotten sinner too.
Lesson #4 is you need the Word of God.
When I met Sandy, I watched her flip through index cards of Scripture and meditate on them. At a volleyball match. That was after she and her husband told me that he read the Bible aloud to his family every morning and evening to the point that he had read the entire Bible dozens of times. I was in awe.
The two of them were so steeped in Scripture that as I spent more time with them, I found myself wanting their opinion on just about everything. I knew that there was no human teaching that could compare to knowing the Word of God that well.
I spoke with Sandy recently and we chatted about a loved one’s battle with anorexia. I explained that I saw this woman have a tiny sample bite of ice cream and then feel compelled to go for a long walk to burn off the calories. Later our conversation turned to my spiritual life. I said, “I always read the Bible, but lately I haven’t read as much.”
She said, “So you’re having small bites of the Scriptures and you’re trying to run a marathon on that.”
I said, “You’re saying I have biblical anorexia.”
She said, “No, you said that” and laughed.
Whoever said it, it’s true. Why, when I know that the Word of God provides so much peace and wisdom wouldn’t I be spending much time reading it? I made a change after our conversation and am seeking to read after each meal. It’s my spiritual food! And I feel refreshed after it. It isn’t legalistic but purely selfish. Lesson #4 is I need the Word of God.
Lesson #5 is to do my husband good all the days of my life.
I had only gotten to know Sandy and her husband for a couple of months when he had to cancel attending a volleyball tournament due to illness. We were shocked when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died two weeks later. Truthfully, I’m still shocked.
I have watched Sandy take on the role of widow in the Lord’s strength. I have listened to stories of how her husband loved her over the years, and I have been impressed with them both. But I was convicted when she said that she had prayed Proverbs 31:12, to be able to do her husband good all the days of his life. I had never prayed that prayer. I never even thought to pray that prayer. And here I am with the blessing of a husband who is still with me. How might my marriage change if I prayed this prayer? How might yours? Lesson #5 is to do my husband good all the days of my life.
Lesson #6 is there is still hope.
I saw Sandy have hope for her husband’s healing until his last breath. But I knew she would have that attitude. Here’s why.
Sandy has witnessed a mother’s worst fears realized. That’s why she could encourage me when I feared for my own and my friend’s children. She reminded me that God can use our children’s mistakes for His purposes–for their salvation and the salvation of others.
On that first day we met when she had no idea that I was fretting about my kids’ choices and their faith walk, she told me there is still hope for our children–no matter how old they are or how far off they are. Sandy didn’t profess a hope in homeschooling or good parenting but in God. When she is in doubt of what to say, she shares God’s Word with them. That’s what I will do here. Hebrews 10:23 assures us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
If Sandy could sit with you, she would tell you that God loves you soooo much, despite the truth that you and your children are dirty, rotten sinners. She would tell you that you need more time in the Word to finish this race. She would encourage you to pray that you would do your husband good all the days of your life. And no matter what you and your children are facing, she would tell you there is still hope.