Make Your School Decision. Then Trust God.
This column first appeared at The Gospel Coalition. It is written by Glenna Marshall, a pastor's wife and mother of two.
Whether you have kids, grandkids or neighbors preparing for Back to School, this article is important for all Christians as we pray and help others around us navigate the fragile balance we are all inhabiting here in the shadow of COVID-19. It is timely considering the changes we're encountering as we prepare to head back to school here in Summit County.
I never thought I’d add “face masks” to our school supply list. I never thought I’d have to decide if it’s safe to send my kids to school. I never thought I’d have to consider teaching seventh-grade math or learning how to conduct therapy techniques emailed to me by the school speech pathologist.
I never thought my decision to send my kids to school, keep them home, or do some kind of hybrid learning would make other parents feel guilty about their own decision. In short, I never thought a pandemic would factor into my educational decisions for my children.
But here I am, like parents everywhere, trying to decide what to do about school this year.
When our district rolled out their reopening plan, it took a while to read through the 20-page document. As I’m writing this article, I’m still not certain what we’ll do. Choose the virtual route from the start? Start with regular reopening so my kids can get the services they need from the school counselors and speech therapists?
I don’t know which path is best for my family. And I can’t tell you what’s best for yours. We all have to make our decision, show grace to one another, and trust God with the results.
Lead with Grace
In Missouri where I live, each district has its own set of reopening guidelines. One district in the greater St. Louis area announced a hybrid reopening plan that was chiseled down to a virtual-only plan the following week. In my district, choosing a virtual plan now means taking a different academic path than the virtual learning provided later if (or when) schools close their doors again. In another nearby district, there are only two options: attend or choose a virtual plan.
Depending on where you live, your education options will likely differ from that of your friends or fellow church members. There are multiple other factors to consider as well. Some parents can’t choose at-home learning because of their work responsibilities. Additionally, many families need to navigate health and IEP concerns. Some kids have a compromised immune system; for them, attendance isn’t an option at all. Some kids, like mine, depend on the therapies and services the school system provides.
We’re not all making our choice with the same set of options. Therefore, we’re going to make different decisions. We’re free to make different choices and free to be kind to others.
We’re not all making our choice with the same set of options. Therefore, we’re going to make different decisions.
One of my church’s core values is a phrase with which we season our conversations: “Lead with grace.” As believers in Christ, we have been shown unfathomable grace by God in saving us from our sins through faith in Christ. We could never out-give God when it comes to grace. But we can imitate his kindness and favor.
“Leading with grace” means loving our church members, neighbors, and friends who make different educational decisions than ours. Leading with grace means considering others better than ourselves, and not condemning someone’s decision in order to justify our own. And, if we can, it means stepping up to help.
Ask for Wisdom, Trust God
The day after our district’s reopening plan was unveiled, I took a walk to calm myself. I couldn’t decide which option was best for my children. I was afraid to send them to school and afraid to teach them at home. Mostly, I was afraid of making the wrong decision.
‘Leading with grace’ means loving our church members, neighbors, and friends who make different educational decisions than ours.
While walking through my neighborhood, I chatted on the phone with another mom who was also grappling with her decision. As I voiced my fears of getting it wrong this school year, my friend offered some sage advice. “God isn’t waiting to see if you make the wrong decision,” she told me. “He’s waiting for you to trust him with the decision you make.”
Her words set me free. Not from having to make a difficult decision, but from worrying and fretting about my decision. Her words set me free because they reminded me of the Lord’s words in the book of James. I memorized this passage just a few months ago, having no idea how these verses would serve me today:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)
When we pray and ask God for wisdom, we’re free to relinquish the fear and worry we carry into our decision-making process.
‘God isn’t waiting to see if you make the wrong decision,’ she told me. ‘He’s waiting for you to trust him with the decision you make.’
Asking God for wisdom while clinging to fretfulness reveals that we don’t really believe the Lord will give what he promises. Asking for help while doubting God’s faithfulness offers as much certainty as standing on an ocean wave in the middle of a storm. But asking God for wisdom with confidence that he will generously supply it provides sturdy ground to make a decision and trust him with the results.
As you’re making your choice about school, remember that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask him. Pray. Talk to the wise people God has placed in your life. Do your research.
But, in the end, make your decision trusting that God will faithfully care for your family. He loves to do it. As Job reminds us, “No purpose of [God’s] can be thwarted.” You can’t mess up his plan, and he’s not waiting for you to. He’s waiting for you to trust him.