I used to desire, more than anything, to be useful to God. To be a good Christian. To change the world for Christ. To burn with the prophetic fire that lit Rich Mullins. But when my good works turned to ashes in my hands, I learned for the first time how precious it was to be wanted by God, apart from any usefulness I might have. Rich fought hard to grasp this lesson, and maybe if I’d been listening better I could have learned it from him while he was alive, but I doubt it: I had to fight for it on my own.
For the first time in my life, I did not know what was next. I only knew that it was time to lay low, rest, and wait. I was dried up inside and felt like I had very little to offer anyone around me. As it turns out, for the first three weeks of the year, I really didn’t have anything to offer as I was sick with a cold the whole time. I thought that I was going to start my sabbatical by doing all those things you never have time to do when you are working, like crafts and cooking and working out in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, my body was screaming at me to stop doing and start being. So I slept. A lot.
I believe that God honors our questions just as my dad honored mine. I believe that God stays with us, even when prayers and songs seem flimsy as paper angels. I believe that it helps to leave the hall light on when the questions come faster than morning. And I keep asking those questions because somewhere in the asking I find I am not answered but I am heard.
180 days. Four hours of instructional time per day. These are the only requirements dictated by the state of Tennessee. I was free to use curriculum or not to use curriculum. I could test or not. Unschooling appealed to me because it felt more sustainable; without a rigid plan I would be less likely to burn out. Even if it didn’t work, one year of unschooling wouldn’t kill us. And maybe it would be exactly what we needed to recalibrate and de-stress.
The watering came in unexpected ways. Sometimes the Lord’s refreshing comes through a change of scenery — the resting place of a vacation, a Sabbath day of ceasing our worry and work, a retreat at Laity Lodge. Sometimes it comes through a change of countenance — we are literally righted from the inside out, brought to clarity, given new perspective and strength. Sometimes we’re made compassionate again, given a new imagination and concern for people’s needs, or a renewed sense of meaning and purpose.