I Don’t Remember Chemistry And I’m Not Homeless

Is it just me or is there a lot of pressure on parents to provide their children with the absolute perfect environment for growth? We are told that our children need to be breast fed, need listen to classical music, need to be able to read by age four, need to play sports, need to play an instrument, need to be involved in theater, need to know Latin, need to experience the world broadly, need to understand various philosophical arguments, need lots of friends, need solitude, need to be nurtured, need tough love, and on and on and on. If we don’t provide these things for our children their growth will be stunted and they may end up as a hobo or drug dealer.

Talk about a lot of pressure! Who can possibly do all these things? I certainly can’t.

But is it possible we’re setting the bar too high for ourselves and our children? That maybe we’re getting a little carried away? And that maybe, just maybe, we’re going beyond what God requires of us as parents?

Let me be honest, I don’t remember much from my many years of schooling. And don’t get me wrong, I did pretty well in school. I don’t say this to brag (because honestly I’m not too impressed) but I graduated from college Suma Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA. I was very good at gaming standardized tests.

Yet despite my decent performance in school I don’t remember much. I can’t remember all the elements on the periodic table. I can’t remember all the countries in Africa even though I was forced to memorize them. I can’t remember who was the governor of Massachussets in 1843 even though I took Advanced Placement History. I think James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers but I’m not sure. The only Latin phrase I know is “Carpe Diem” and I got that from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. I never played lacrosse or took part in a school play.

Let me tell you what I do remember.

I remember coming downstairs every morning and seeing my dad reading his Bible.

I remember all the times I went fishing with my dad.

I remember all the music we jammed out to as a family, including Billy Joel, Sting, The Beatles, dc Talk, and Peter Gabriel. The constant presence of music in our house gave me a love for music as well as a biblical framework to interpret music.

I remember my mom and dad’s constant, appropriate physical affection. I remember that they always told me how much they loved me. I remember sitting in church and feeling my mom’s loving hand on my back.

I remember our morning family devotions even though I often fell asleep during those devotions.

I remember seeing my dad serve my mom when she was battling depression. He made dinners, did dishes, and cleaned up after us.

I remember totaling my parents car and neither of them getting angry at me.

I remember my dad telling me he didn’t care what career I chose as long as I followed Jesus.

I remember all the fun books we read together as a family, which in turn instilled a passion for reading and learning in me.

Education and extracurricular activities are good and important. But maybe they’re not as important as we think. What’s most important is that we teach our children to love Jesus, love others, and be servants. If they know Latin, great. But if not it’s really okay.

Don’t feel guilty for falling short of your own unrealistic, extra-biblical standards. There are only a few things in life which really, really matter. Focus on those things and the rest will fall into place.

+original photo by pedrosimoes7

Comments

  1. Elaine says

    "…love Jesus, love others, and be servants"…yep, that was the goal. And by His grace, their lives reflect all three. But, they also learn some Latin, listened to and grew to love classical music, and both have been involved with the theater But we received very wise advice: keep the main things, the main things (love, Jesus, love others, and be servants).

    Thanks, Stephen

  2. says

    "What’s most important is that we teach our children to love Jesus, love others, and be servants."
    And in serving, you will be less likely to categorize the homeless as hobos and drug dealers. Kids (and adults) need to learn that "there, but for the grace of God, go I".

  3. says

    I can't tell you how timely this is! Just yesterday I spent two precious hours of naptime scouring the internet for Montessori activities for my 17 month old so I can stimulate his mind…Then when I tried one of the activities, I got frustrated when he ended up just throwing everything all over the place! My reasoning behind all this was "I want him to be able to understand the Bible as early as he can" but I think it would mean much for him if, like in the examples you mentioned, he frequently caught me on my knees or practicing hospitality towards our neighbors. Thank you for this. I so needed it.

  4. Mike says

    Thanks so much for this…particularly the wisdom from your father about your future. My son needed to hear this from me. Thanks.

  5. Jim Luder says

    I didn't understand your blog. My wife and I were perfect parents as were our parents and our grandparents. However, I'm not sure what happened to our siblings, because none of them are perfect. At least not as perfect as my wife and I.

    • sayWhat says

      What are you still doing on earth? Are perfect people not in Heaven?

      If you think you are perfect, I wonder what you are doing on this Christian blog, the Bible clearly lets us know that only God is perfect, and that excludes you! You seem to have misunderstood the whole Bible.

      You may think you are perfect but remember, the best that you do is like a filthy rag!

      This just for your consideration…

  6. yankeegospelgirl says

    Oh, but my parents would definitely be mad at me if I totaled the car. So I guess they're not as perfect as yours…

  7. sowingmercy says

    I remember studying hard and my kids studied hard, too. We all did well. For me and my children, hitting the books was a means to an end – a college education which would not have been possible without scholarships, and then jobs.

    But my parents did not give us everything. We could not afford tennis lessons, more than one sport a year, senior class trips, or trips to Europe with the spanish class or choir. We didn't go to preschool or Christian schools. But our parents encouraged us to do our best. And they made sure we went to church on Sunday, went to AWANA as youngsters, and attended youth group at our church. And I remember hearing my father praying in his bedroom for each of us. Often.

    We could not afford to send our kids to Christian Schools, either. They did go to preschool because they all had special needs. We took them to therapy, pushed them to learn and study hard. Took them to church, children's programs, and youth group. They did go on youth group mission trips (in the states). Prayed for them and with them. Talked about spiritual issues along with politics, economics, etc. Because they overcame and studied hard, two of them were able to go to Christian college on a combination of scholarships and loans. Our oldest has severe learning disabilities, so scholarship money was not available. She took the community college route and then a business college for two years.

    We are not perfect. My house is messy. When our son moved away for his job, one of the first things he did was find his new church. I have to admit that this made me happy.

    • sowingmercy says

      My son will probably remember computer programming, my daughter accounting, and my other daughter, history, because those subjects are their career paths. That is the thing about college…you get to choose. You remember a lot of what you learned in college because as a pastor, that is what you use every day.

  8. says

    As an adult I really appreciate my parents' attitude toward schooling (we were home-schooled, where sometimes some of the fiercest "competition" exists regarding how much a child can memorize and spew out!). My parents always said that for us to graduate they had two basic requirements: That we would learn HOW TO learn and that we would exhibit a LOVE of learning… the gaps they may have missed could all be filled in later if we had those two things down!

  9. DLE says

    Being in paid, professional ministry can be like a fairyland compared to some other professional fields. Most pastors today have only vicarious knowledge of what occurs in the traditional workplace of modern business and what is being demanded for success. When pastors give advice in these areas, it is almost always out of touch with reality.

    • Rolou says

      Whose definition of "success," though?

      For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:26a

      Too often we Christians follow the world's definition of success instead of God's. Do we really need to make enough money to get all the "stuff" that we can? Wouldn't it be better to find the purpose that God placed us here for and then follow that with all our heart? Just a thought.

      • DLE says

        Your response sounds like that of someone under 35. It's a romantic way to think of life, but life is harsher than that. The question is: "How far off the world's grid do you want to live?" Most American Christians who would quote Matthew 16:26a can't state how much they are willing to sacrifice. Most of them have NOT sacrificed in any meaningful way yet. All it takes is an illness, a job loss, an unfortunate event, and then "living faithfully" takes on a different sheen.

        The middle class is not ready to slip further down the class structure, facing a downwardly mobile lifestyle where what we once had we can't have anymore. The Church here has not prepped people for that. There is no "off the world's grid" training that I can see the Church doing. I don't see the Church here doing anything to provide alternatives.

        What happens when your kids can't find work because they didn't maximize their work skillsets? Or your church lays you off and you have no skills for any work out in the "real" world? What happens when there isn't any more money for fancy programs and the latest sound systems for the worship team? What happens when the majority of a church finds itself downwardly mobile? What happens when that big church building can't be paid for? What then?

        The American Church is not dealing with these questions. It can't keep putting off the answers, though, because we are running out of time.

  10. Ed L says

    Read the parable of the talents again. It's not about money or prestige – but we do honor God by using the gifts he has given us. Look at how many colleges went from being founded on Christian principles to being godless indoctrination factories. It is thinking like this that hands our culture and country to the enemy. We don't learn for wrong motivations, but it is God-honoring to use what he has given you.

    • Tired of shallowness says

      All it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing. All it takes for a profession to go godless is for Christians to abandon it. Don't buy into the anti-intellectualist strain that corrupts American Christianity. Worship God with your mind.

  11. says

    This post is contrived. I suspect you don’t remember because your memories fail you.

    By the way, it’s summa cum laude, not “suma”. No need for uppercase. Did you get your four point oh from a Cracker Jack Box?

    I expect more from self-proclaimed intelligence.

  12. Charles (CJ) Rich,Jr says

    Wow, there are ALOT of haters on this comment page. As someone who grew up with imperfect, yet loving, Christian parents, I could relate to your post Stephen. And having functioned “successfully” in the corporate arena as well as in full-time ministry, I partially agree with DLE. but ONLY partially. Most pastors that I know are full of Godly wisdom and helped me through a lot of potential “mine fields” in the corporate world. BTW, my wife and I have remained happily married for nearly 33 years (we married young) and raised 3 sons and a daughter. Following Godly principles works, when you learn to cultivate the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in every area of your life.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] I Don’t Remember Chemistry and I’m not Homeless – Stephen Altrogge Parents today are scrambling to get their children the best education and extra-curricular opportunities available. Yet – as Stephen reflects on his own life – he realizes most of those things left no lasting mark on his life. Have we set the bar too high and missed out? [...]

  2. [...] This article first appeared on Stephen Altrogge’s website, The Blazing Center, and is used with his permission. Sponsor Join the Conversation on Facebook Beacon Display Ads Archives Select Month September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 NM.init({ClientID: 167}); RSS Feed About [...]

  3. [...] First Things First: I loved this piece by Stephen Altrogge on not getting too stressed about secondary issues when parenting. We must be careful to focus on the most important things and then do our best with the rest. [...]

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