Let's just admit it - it's easier to look back than it is to look forward. That's why you will hear much more about who and what has already defined the century and millennium behind us, than what might define the century in front of us. We will revel as a culture, at least for a time, in defining the greatest people, events, inventions, achievements, victories, defeats and whatever else might make a list of the past 100, 1000, or even 2000 years.
Perhaps it's because "looking back" is in the millennial air that I've recently delved into the Clarkson family history. I've stumbled onto a rich Christian and American heritage I never knew was there: a line of noted Scottish pastors dating from the early 1700s, an uncle who fired the first shot of the Civil War and also was a doctor who treated soldiers of both sides in a barn at Gettysburg, a distinguished Confederate Colonel whose South Carolina mansion was burned by Sherman, and a multitude of faithful ministers and godly families.
I find great meaning in reconnecting with my heritage. There is something defining about uncovering the tapestry of my family's past, seeing where the thread of my life connects with the threads of my ancestors. But therein lies the problem with looking back. There is a subtle security in getting wrapped up in the past, a sense that it is safer and more comfortable looking back, where everything is known and knowable. On the other hand, there is no security in looking forward, into a not-yet-defined future.
And yet that, I believe, is where Jesus asks us to look. To what lies ahead. We tend to hold onto our roots because they feel secure to us, or because they secure what we believe is important, or for reasons we can't quite even secure in our emotions. But God does not want us to aspire to be roots. He wants us to tend to the plants that He plans to grow from those roots.
As a homeschooling parent, those plants are my children, and God wants me to be sure they will live for Him in a new generation. Yes, they will need to know their roots, the rich Christian heritage that will nourish and strengthen their faith. But I never want my children to be content to be roots, wrapped up in a past that has passed. We will study the past to learn from it, even to lean on it, but not to live in it. The past is Christianity, but the future is always Christ.
I want my plants to flourish in that future. In the media, I want them to spread out with new ways of communicating biblical truth in an increasingly pagan culture. I want them to blossom in the arts, with expressions of Christian truth and beauty that don't just defy the secular trends, but perhaps even define new ones. Whatever kind of plant the future needs to glorify Christ, that is what I want them to become. I am not called to create more roots, but to plant the always-new and ever-present reality of Christ in the future through my children.
As roots are to a plant, so the past is to our lives as Christians. There will always be a "cloud of witnesses surrounding us," encouraging us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1-2). But, we are not told to fix our eyes on those witnesses. Instead, we are told always to be "fixing our eyes on Jesus." Like Paul, our focus is to be on what "lies ahead," not looking back but looking forward to the "upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:12-14).
As the new millennium breaks upon us, let us in the Christian homeschooling community remember that it is not our roots that define us a movement. It's what kind of plant we are becoming and, even more, what kinds of plants are children are becoming.
Keep looking forward to Christ.
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