Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Legalism v Relationship--for my homeschooling friends

Despite removing myself form the day-to-day operations of Sonlight Curriculum, I have maintained an interest in the broader homeschool community and some of the unique (and, sadly, sometimes, uniquely weird) aspects of homeschooling.

One of those areas has to do with a kind of . . . well, let me not label it. I'll let you decide for yourself exactly what I'm talking about.

I found the Recovering Grace Blog ("a Gothard generation shines light on the teachings of IBLP [Institute in Basic Life Principles] and ATI [Advanced Training Institute]") as a result of a post at the Commandments of Men blog.

And while at Recovering Grace, I saw a link to a post titled Vow vs. Relationship. The author begins her story with a brief summary of the ever-expanding pile of commitments she began making to God as a result of the teaching she was receiving from Bill Gothard and his ATI/IBLP. Finally, having become a member of the IBLP staff, one day,
Mr. Gothard presented the teaching on taking a “vow” to read your Bible 5 minutes per day. We were then told the story of the man who made a vow foolishly in the Old Testament and was forced to kill his own daughter to fulfill the vow. Needless to say, this put a very fearful aspect and seriousness to the vow. We were then told that should we break our vow by failing to read our Bible for 5 minutes per day, we would need to “catch up” by reading extra however many days we needed to in order to make sure we had the total number of minutes. At this time, I was still so eager to please everyone that I made the vow even though I had a lot of reservations about doing so.

This was the beginning of the end of my joy in the Christian life. I now had added on the top of an insurmountable number of commitments, a vow that I was scared to death to break. I knew in my heart that I had only set myself up for failure.

My walk with God had become a formula with a checklist. Did I fulfill my vow today? Check. Did I remember to spend a good bit of time praying? Check. Did I remember to keep my thoughts pure? Check. Did I remember to clear my conscience? Check. The list went on and on. The problem with this was that I was no longer desiring to know God more intimately, I was simply wanting to check the boxes to make sure I didn’t fall under severe judgment from God.

This started a downward spiral in my spiritual health. I was suddenly afraid to even spend time with God because I might say or do something wrong that would result in His displeasure. (Yes, I do know that God sees and hears everything even before it happens, but I was so burdened with my commitments that it felt easier to avoid His direct presence and hope He would turn a blind eye.) Through an illness where I wasn’t able to read very easily, I “got behind” on my vow. I tried a time or two to get caught up, but I was suddenly so far behind that I knew I would never meet with God’s requirement for me and I just needed to hang on and wait for the proverbial shoe to fall. . . .
At some point, the author began to compare what she had done in her relationship with God to the relationship she saw she had with her husband.
When I substituted the best relationship correlation that I knew of (the relationship with my husband), I realized how frustrating this must have been to my Savior. If I had a checklist of how I needed to please my husband and did nothing but that checklist, the relationship would be non-existent. Not to mention the fact that it would be totally one-sided because I wouldn’t have time to listen.
Oh, boy! Been there. Done that.

The author's conclusion:
All of the commitments I made while under the teaching of IBLP were good in and of themselves. There are many that I still believe are exactly how God wants me to live. However, I have realized that these commitments need to be gifts of love to present to my Savior as an outflowing of my grateful heart for all He has done for me. They don’t need to be the answer for the perfect Christian life and therefore become a god unto themselves.
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