A homeschooling innovation brings opportunity and danger
Columnists Remarkable Providences
Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, in a wonderful little book first published about 350 years ago, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, penned an intriguing line about what a Christian should be: "the most contented man in the world, and yet the most unsatisfied man in the world." The state of the pro-life movement seems to be an ideal example of the importance of the rare jewel. The abortion question is one that can ravage the emotions of anyone who is without a heart of stone. When I was writing a book about the history of abortion, an acquaintance asked what I was researching and then commented, "What a miserable topic to live with for a couple of years." It's even more miserable to live with it for 25 years, as some heroes and heroines of the pro-life movement have. As we remember the grotesque nature of partial-birth abortions, let us not forget the agony of partial defeat, year after year, for some godly stalwarts. Yes, the American public has been educated. Yes, compassionate alternatives to abortion and some small legislative improvements have emerged. But the deaths keep on coming. Even when there is a step forward, it seems to be followed quickly by two steps back. In the face of such trouble, we need to be extremely dissatisfied but extremely content. None of what we go through is unknown to Christ, who works all things for the good of those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose. Even as we scowl at the dark cloud of abortion, look at the way God has drawn many Americans into his great cloud of witnesses through their involvement in pro-life work. Not only the heavens, but babies wonderfully made, declare the glory of God-and God uses his glorious creation to teach people about the Creator. As we scowl, look at how God has taught so many crisis pregnancy center counselors about his sovereignty. A counselor has to learn to listen to her client and push her to think more deeply, but to trust God with the results. That is hard. Counselors often want by their own efforts to guarantee a better life for a client, but they learn that is impious as well as impossible. They learn to bring everything to Christ, but not to presume upon Christ. Look at how our realization of powerlessness pushes us to the cross. Look at how it pushes us to read the Bible, and to realize that nothing happening in our time was foreign to the experience of some of God's leaders in biblical times. Look, for example, at the mood swings of Elijah that were recorded in 1 Kings 18 and 19. One glorious day brought enormous, vibrant victory, with God's power revealed on Mount Carmel and the prophets of Baal and Asherah destroyed. But the next day Ahab and Jezebel were still in power, the Israelites apparently had sunk back into their customary theological lethargy, and Elijah had to run for his life. Look at how Elijah, a great champion of God, panicked. Once he began to flee Jezebel's wrath, he did not stop in Jerusalem, where a good king was on the throne. He did not stop in Beersheba, the southernmost town. Elijah, who had been brave and bold, continued his flight out into the desert, heading southwards, ever southwards. Certainly he had suffered a huge spiritual letdown and was physically exhausted to boot. He was running on empty-and see how God, with amazing love, filled him up. God showed Elijah that the King of all creation operates as well through gentle whispers as through wind, earthquake, or fire. God told Elijah that 7,000 Israelites had not bowed down to Baal. God lifted Elijah's eyes to the sweep of history and showed him how evildoers eventually would get what they deserved. Fine, someone may say bitterly when we turn back to the present: Look at the sweep of history, but in the meantime the unborn children keep on dying. True, all too true: Yet if every night as we slide into bed we sleeplessly count the babies rather than counting our blessings, we have lost that rare jewel of Christian contentment, and our ability to serve productively will soon also be lost. And in the meantime, what of the unborn children who die? I would not be able to sleep at night but for God's teaching revealed with particular clarity in Abraham's question in Genesis 18: "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" For children who need life and adults who need hope, we can be confident that the answer to that question is a triumphant affirmation.