altarside

I build an altar of riverbank stones.
These boys, these days,
this game we’ve called education —
dear God, make it beautiful?
Layer upon layer I build up my altar
till tiny hands squash flat
that which I’ve called artistry, skill;
And the wreckage reveals the layers beneath–
layer upon layer of boulders and earth
lain by Your very hands
creating a floor on which to rest,
to be held up.

All earth is altar.
And I upon it,
still breathing.

When I still,
wait,
All life assembles around me.
Butterflies alight upon me.

.

*          *          *          *

.

The rest of knowing God, living and breathing God, has seized me this year.  I say “rest” because before recently, it has always been my work.  If I can act out my worthiness, martyr myself into the presence of Jesus, all should be right.  Right?  But the word whispered to me: rest.

I thought it might be physical rest I should seek after, having been immersed in the daily whirl of three boys for three months at that time.  And it was.  He gives to his beloved sleep, and He gives to his beloved [in her] sleep.

But when full-blown school was “supposed to” start for Isaiah this month, and I stood in the role of teacher, I wanted to make it flawless and amazing.  Out came all my planning files and book lists and goals, and there was nothing I could leave behind if someone convinced me that it was important for my five-year-old to learn it.

Isaiah has done admirably these first three weeks since I started intentionally teaching him schoolish stuff.  But I have seen the light in his eyes fade, heard his voice lose its confidence when the choice of what and how we learn is mashed into his schedule.

A rest-centered approach to teaching calls for different methods: teach by example, let him love learning.  And I must let him love learning, for I can never make him love it.

In all this nudging toward rest (I read a book this week called The Relaxed Homeschool!), I also am pressed toward love of my children.  When the whining and boy-energy and demands have stacked up so precariously in my emotions that all I can imagine doing is locking my children outside for the whole morning, Christ-in-me suggests something to take us outside of our rigid and forced learning: Get out into nature.  So this morning we packed up lunches for a trip to Wildcat Park.

In the mud and the moss, three boys slathered themselves with merriment.  I forced no nature journal entries upon Isaiah, and instead watched him discover and explore on his own.  I tried my own nature drawing; Ari grabbed a pencil, followed suit.  And still lured by creativity, I set up a circle of rocks while Ari and Isaiah squirted each other with bags full of creek-water.

My efforts — my altar — were destined for toppling, risk made higher by Baby Ray nearby, with his own sense of creativity and discovery.  By that time it didn’t matter anymore.  I sat in the sunlight, letting the poem “altarside” pour forth.  I’m not sure I should put my name on it at all, for even the butterflies upon me were no metaphorical concoction of mine.  It just happened when I came to a place of rest.

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