I once heard the saying “Happiness is a new box of crayons.” This year as I sent my kids off to school to open their own new boxes of happiness, I was reminded of what I used to think about the moms who were so happy about their kids going back to school in the fall: I used to think they must not like their kids very much. Then, I became a mom who is so happy her kids are going back to school.
It seems God, in His infinite wisdom, thought I could gain some insight and compassion by experiencing full-blown, at my wits-end, burned-out exhaustion by the end of summer. Let me state the obvious: I love my kids and they are a gift and we have loads of fun together. But, there are four of them and their hopes and needs and only one mama to meet them. We step on each other’s toes, fingers, hair, and sometimes eyelashes. And this summer was no exception. When the first day of school rolled around yesterday, honestly, everyone was happy.
Why all the happiness?
Like I said, the kids were happy. I was happy. It was a happy day. Did I mention the happiness? But here’s the distinction I would like to make clear: we’re all happy school is starting again because it’s good for us. Right now, in this season of life, this form of education is where the Lord has placed us. And for our family, it is good. When I say “I’m so glad my kids are back in school!” it does not mean I don’t love them or miss them. It does not mean I don’t value children and instructing them in righteousness, shaping them in Gospel truths. I mean, our family enjoys God’s grace to us through our school situation.
Here are some reasons we may have all done the happy dance:
- We THRIVE on routine. (And the work actually gets done alongside the play!)
- Daily expectations are clear and attainable.
- My introverts are over-stimulated and my extroverts are bored senseless.
- We all have space to be individuals.
- My kids miss their friends.
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder – we will now appreciate one another more when we’re together.
- Our conversations expand; more experiences, more to talk about!
- My kids benefit from the wisdom of teachers who offer them experiences and awesomeness I don’t have to give.
- My kids see faith modeled by teachers other than me.
- We all have the capacity for more ministry opportunities.
What’s wrong with happiness?
Why do I feel the need to explain and bullet-point my excitement? Because, sometimes, this mama feels guilty. I feel guilty for enjoying God’s freely given blessings. And this, I’m confident, is guilt I wasn’t meant to bear.
The guilt I feel over rejoicing in my children’s return to school isn’t because I doubt my family’s decision to send our kids to school. It isn’t because I am sinning against the Lord or my children. It is purely fear of man. tells me the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. When I allow this fear to fester and give way to guilt and anxiety, I abandon my trust in the Lord and I fail to rejoice in the ways he cares and provides for me.
“Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings.”
“For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.”
Thankfully, my righteousness and the salvation of my children (a.k.a. The Lord’s mercy “to all generations”) isn’t dependent on how I chose to school my children and my sanctification is promised no matter where our days play out. My righteousness and my hope are in Christ alone.
When Guilt Gives Way to Gratitude
Really and truly, I am thankful to the Lord for providing for my children through the work of people who do things better than I could. I’m thankful to the Lord for the friendships he’s provided to my children. I’m thankful for the teachers he handpicked to guide them this year. I’m thankful for the fun and all the silliness they’ll have during their hours away from me. Words fail to express the gratitude I have for the school and the abundant grace my family receives from the Lord through these hardworking teachers and staff. Their dedication and joy over teaching the little people I love so much is a gift to me all school year.
Summer burnout has taught me we are all intricately made by the Lord – strengths, weaknesses, faults, and limits. And at the end of the summer, when I hit the wall of what I had to offer, God’s grace was there to provide and sustain me. Summer proved to be no exception. But as the wall gives way, I’m praying it doesn’t give way to guilt but instead to gratitude.
“It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.”
25 The fear of man lays a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. (ESV)
7 “Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
the people in whose heart is my law;
fear not the reproach of man,
nor be dismayed at their revilings. (ESV)
8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool;
but my righteousness will be forever,
and my salvation to all generations.” (ESV)
92:1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (ESV)