Sometimes raising children seems like an uphill struggle – a constant testing of limits, rules, and authority. “I don’t want to go to bed right now.” “Why do I have to wear my hat?” “I don’t like green beans.” “I don’t want to share with Christopher.” “Why, Mommy, why?” “Please can I do it one more time? Please.” And sometimes I get very weary and worn down. Sometimes I give in to the entreaties because I’m so tired of the battle. I make a deal; I hear myself saying, “O.K., one more time, and then it’s time for bed.” Sometimes it works; sometimes it just prolongs the battle. Later, as I am thinking about the struggle, whichever of the many daily contests of wills, I start second-guessing myself. Should I have given in? Was I too lax? Was I too strict? Was it right, or was it just easier?
I was thinking of that phrase particularly this week – is it right or is it easier – because Ron Dart gave a sermon several years ago with that title – and the concept has really stuck in my memory. Many times we are faced with choices. Which do we choose: the right one, or the one that appears easier at the time? I firmly believe that we are a collection of God’s people who love Him, who consequently love the truth and who are striving to become perfect out of love for our Father (Matthew 5:48). Because we are individually God’s children, He has designed an individual education plan (Philippians 1:6) – a plan specifically designed for you and for me to maximize the strengths and gifts He has given to us in our unique situations. Obviously, my educational plan is not yours, nor vice versa – truly it is the greatest example of home schooling there is! And we know this. We recognize that we could joyfully live out our lives as hermits, learning at the feet of the Master, with no interference from any other of God’s children.
However, once we understand that salvation is an individual matter and that no one can ride into the Kingdom on another’s coattails (Ezekiel 14:14, 18:20), we learn with other believers to allow for differences in understanding, to be flexible, to be loving and open-minded, and to realize that iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17) as we progress through our educational plan called life! And, to some degree we are successful – at least for a while.
The rub comes when we must come together to accomplish a specific goal. We have to figure out how to mesh these individual understandings into a working understanding with which everyone can live. It is at that point we find out that what we had considered basic isn’t basic to everyone – and we cautiously regroup, establish ground rules, and really work at keeping our patience. We know that God doesn’t want us to forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), so we try to find our way in love to maintain unity and love (1 Thessalonians 3:12, Ephesians 4:2-3), while not violating our own conscience in what we know God has shown to us on an individual level (Romans 14:23).
Many times, we let a lot of issues slide – knowing that it really wasn’t a big thing, even if we would have preferred a different outcome. But sometimes we hit that conscience head on. We cannot, in good faith, accept what someone else believes. What do we do? Do we, for the sake of unity, let “this” go too? Or do we quietly make our position and opposition known? Sometimes we take what appears to be the easier path – the one of acquiescing without comment. We don’t want to rock the boat. And we’re too weary to engage in yet one more conflict (Galatians 6:9). But that’s not good for us and it’s not good, ultimately, for the group. The right path is rarely the easy path. But it’s still the right path.
I know you are tired. Everyone I talk to is tired. We are all so busy. We are all so bombarded every day with things, conflicts, choices, and battles which wear us down (Matthew 13:22; Daniel 7:25). But make the right choice, not the easy choice! I need you to. Don’t you know that you are part of my educational plan. God is using you to teach me His will and His way. As much as I don’t like the idea of having to learn at your feet instead of the feet of the Master, sometimes that’s the way it is. Don’t avoid the inevitable conflict because my ego gets in the way and I get mad because my will is thwarted. In many ways, you may feel that you’re dealing with a two-year-old, and you’re just tired of it. I know it’s a thankless job, at least right now. Please persevere. I know it’s important to pick your battles, because you just can’t fight them all. Just hang in there and consider your choices. Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12). Don’t give in because you’re tired and it’s easier (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Please make the right choice. You and I will both ultimately be the better for it. And God will give you the strength to keep doing what needs to be done (Philippians 4:13).