For This I Toil
It’s that time of year. Pencils are sharpened. Binders gathered. Expectancy is in the air.
I love the school season. It feels like a fresh start. The slate is wiped clean. The paper, bare, waiting for ink. The anticipation of learning and discovery hovers in the air.
School has always birthed excitement within me. I used to love gathering my school supplies, making sure they were in top working order. A new year of memories, learning, and wonder waiting to be discovered.
As I begin my fifth year of homeschooling, I am again taking stock, looking at the end game. What is my goal in training the pixies this year? Is there a particular focus I should concentrate on?
As I was praying through these thoughts the other morning, I read Colossians 1:28-29.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.”
Whether you are a homeschooling mama or not, I think these verses benefit us all in raising our children. The time we are investing in their lives is a small offering. We get to give back to God what He has so graciously given to us.
When I look at raising and educating my girls in this light, everything changes. The sowing raises a harvest. And the harvest I hope to produce in my pixies is one where I may present them mature in Christ.
The Goal: Present Everyone Mature in Christ
I think it’s helpful as parents to often ask ourselves, “What kind of crop do we want to reap?” Or even , “What kind of crop do we want our children to reap?” Life can suck the wind out of our sails. We can easily lose sight of the forest through the trees. The immediate trumps the necessary. What is the goal in parenting these treasures we have been entrusted with?
I love how this verse focuses on maturity in Christ. Other translations of the word “maturity” are “complete” or “perfect”. It possesses the idea of someone or something being in good working order.
As parents, we desire our children to mature, to grow up and move successfully into adulthood. We don’t want them to be dependent on us or even themselves, for the matter. The focus is for them to be dependent only on Christ.
The standard of maturity in this passage is Christlikeness. There is no other goal, no other measuring stick. The enemy is clever, deceiving us to develop our man-made standards. We sacrifice the sacred for the sensual. We confuse Christian activities with Christlikeness.
How am I constructing my own man-made standards and how are those goals conflicting with the harvest of Christlikeness I hope to produce?
Maybe performance is trumping purpose. We become so entangled in the product we lose sight of the character building opportunities each day. We plough through a math lesson when there are issues of the heart that need to be dealt with. We push our child to continue in an activity that they really have no passion for, but we do.
Our goal is for the fruit of the spirit to radiate from our children so that “His loveliness rests upon them.”
Clement of Alexandria saw maturity as embracing the man entire—soul, body, and spirit. How can we inspire our children’s souls? What activities will train their body? How do we nourish their spirits? Their entire being is involved in the maturity process.
It’s important to remember we are not trying to change our children. We are trying to cultivate them. God created them with a specific purpose in mind and we are training them to be all He created them to be. We want them to fly in His freedom.
How To Reach the Goal: Proclaim Him and Teach with all Wisdom
What is so beautiful about this passage is that Christ is not only the end goal He is also the means to reaching that goal. It is all about Him. We proclaim Christ.
I love how Augustine says it in De doctrina christiana, Book I, Ch. 11, “And thus, though Wisdom was Himself our home, He made Himself also the way by which we should reach our home.”
As sojourners here, we always have an eternal perspective in mind. We eagerly await our eternal dwelling. But along the way to our home, we get glimpses of His glory. Christ, Who is our home, meets us and journeys with us until we finally reach Home.
It is only natural that we would proclaim Christ when He is our home. We teach Him with all wisdom. Not the wisdom of this world, but the wisdom that is from above. The wisdom that derives from another kingdom.
Our children need to see that we are operating on a different plane. We are residents of another kingdom and that looks differently than our current world, which means we will have different values, different goals. We seek wisdom that “is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
The Requirement: Toiling
The gaining of maturity is no small cost. It requires labor and pains. I am in it to produce a harvest of righteousness in my girls. The end game is Christlikeness. It requires toiling.
How do we toil?
We toil in prayer for our children. We toil in preparation. We toil in sacrifice. There are things we give up or do without because what we are after is a treasure too precious to lose.
The word Paul uses for “toiling” in this verse means to work to the point of exhaustion. We get up early. We stay up late. We give of ourselves so that we might invest in our children's future.
And we can be confident there is grace in our toiling.
Whenever we struggle, we must remember we are not on our own. Our struggling is with all His energy that He powerfully works within us. We are not doing this on our own. It is not our own strength, it is not our own wisdom, it is not our own talents that achieve this goal. It is His power that enables us.
And although we are struggling, it is His energy working powerfully within us. The word "struggling" has the idea of agonizing, like an athlete in the height of his competition. It means we push for the finish line with every bit of strength we have within us. Because the truth is, we will become weary. There are days we will want to throw the towel in. But we press on, with His strength.
We desperately need His energy, and we are promised it. It is power in the toiling. And this is where we put our trust. He is able. He is our confidence.
For this we toil…