When Sarah Palin was selected as a nominee for Vice President, it was quickly reported that her eldest daughter is pregnant and unmarried.
Upon hearing this information, several commentators expressed surprise that evangelical Christians did not condemn Sarah Palin and her daughter.
Someone commented that these Christians who stood behind Sarah Palin would have been the first to kick out of the house any pregnant daughter of their own.
A Christian Nation. In Some Ways.
Comments such as this brought back to me again the realization that, although the United States is in some ways a Christian nation, Christianity is little understood by those outside of the Faith.
I suppose that there are circumstances under which a parent might feel it necessary to remove a pregnant daughter from the house—for example, if she were seriously promiscuous or a drug abuser and influencing other children in the house. Barring that, I cannot imagine that any of the Christians I know would kick out of their house a pregnant daughter.
Christianity contains within it many paradoxes, and this is one of them: God asks us to be perfect, but is incredibly understanding of imperfection. One sees this in the sacrament of confession.
Yes, God sets before us a rather daunting moral law and says we ought to follow it perfectly. Yet, he also gives us confession, and tells us that all he really expects of us is that we keep trying. No matter what the sin, and no matter how many times it has been committed, all God asks is that we confess it and try not to do it anymore.
The Bible advises us that we should forgive our brother “seventy times seven times.” God is at least this generous in forgiving us.
God Asks for Everything?
Beyond the commandments, the Church and the saints tell us that we should be entirely devoted to God. The Scriptures tell us to “Pray without ceasing” and to “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
We are told as well that when we have done everything asked of us, we have done no more than our duty. Yet, the Bible gives us the parable of the workers who come late to the field who are paid the same as those who “bore the heat of the day.” No matter how little they did, God gives these workers their reward.
The paradox here is that God asks for everything, but is happy with so little. We could spend all of our time in prayer, and perhaps we should, but God requires of us only about an hour a week at Mass. And if we stray, God does not say “Good riddance” and go on.
He follows after us, as the Good Shepherd, gently bringing a sheep back into the flock. It should be we who are required to chase God, showing remorse for our offenses, and begging Him to take us back. But it is rather God who seeks us, telling us He is eager to forgive, and begging us to accept Him.
The ‘Hound of Heaven’
There is a famous analogy of God as the Hound of Heaven, always in search of His human quarry. To think of God as the Hound, though, perhaps makes us think of Him as larger and more powerful than He wants to be thought of. He came to us as a tiny baby, so that He would not overwhelm us.
Perhaps in this sense, we can think of him as a little brother, who is always begging his older brother to play with him. The little brother hopes and waits, suffering any number of rebuffs from the older brother who is too busy to pay much attention.
Yet, if the older brother makes a few minutes for his younger brother, the younger brother is filled with joy, and cares nothing for the fact that he has felt so much prior rejection. We might think of God in the same way. God asks for everything, but rejoices at the smallest sign of affection.
The Goal of Homeschooling
The lesson we should take for our own lives is that we should strive for perfection in all things, but be happy with any movement in the right direction. From looking at postings on the Seton Message Board, I know that parents sometimes feel discouraged about their homeschooling.
They look at the lesson plans, and then look at the work their children have actually accomplished, and they feel that they could and should have done more. They say that they are “behind” and don’t know how to catch up.
When I read that someone is “behind” I always wonder “Behind what?” Seton has no calendar that lists what assignments must be done by what day. This is not some sort of reality television show where the first family done with the lesson plans wins.
The lesson plans from Seton are merely a suggestion; they are not a command. They are your servant, not your master.
It is good to have high goals and expectations. High goals often allow us to push ourselves to do better than we otherwise would. We should set goals high. Indeed, if we always reach our goals, then perhaps our goals are set too low. If you are always striving to meet your goals, but they seem just out of your reach, your goals are probably about right, because they are challenging you to do your best.
Even if you can’t reach your goals, you need to look around and understand that much has been accomplished. If you think you are behind in your home schooling, look around and see what has been done. Maybe little Johnny hasn’t made it through his workbook entirely, but he’s finally learned long division. That’s something.
Maybe Joanie hasn’t finished her reading book, but she’s finally developed a love of reading. That’s something. Maybe Tommy hasn’t finished his religion book, but he’s begun to grow in his Faith. That’s really something.
The goal of homeschooling isn’t to finish the book or to finish the lesson plans. The goal is to give your child a good Catholic education that will prepare him or her to live as a Christian in the world. You are only “behind” if you are not making progress toward accomplishing that goal.
So the next time you are down on yourself about not being perfect, remember that God understands imperfection, and we are all called to imitate Him.