“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” -Jesus, as quoted in Matthew 7
My interest in educating my daughter at home began when she was only a toddler. I bought a couple of books about homeschooling and thought I would give it a try. It wasn’t long, though, before it became clear that my very bright only child turned social butterfly needed a social outlet. So it was with tears and much hand-wringing that I enrolled her in a preschool class two days a week. Despite a few bumps in the road, her experience was positive.
Fast forward a couple years to Kindergarten. What to do? Homeschool or not? The Lord made it very clear to me what we were to do: enroll both of us at a Christian school — me as a teacher, and her as a student. It was one of the only times in my life that I felt God’s hand on me so distinctly, directing me to get up, go, and get an application to teach. Three weeks later, I was hired as a first grade teacher, and my daughter was accepted as a Kindergarten student. It was absolutely the right road for us at that time.
After a move to Texas, I felt His call to try the very narrow homeschooling road. The thought of homeschooling my daughter was daunting even though I was a certified teacher. One visit to the local homeschool bookfair had my head swimming with all the curriculum choices available for home educators. Yet walk this narrow road we have done.
As I look at the narrow road ahead, I have to wonder: am I truly following God’s will for my daughter, or am I following my own desire to learn more through teaching? I am certain that the education she is receiving at home is superior to anything she would find in any school, public or private, because our parent-teacher ratio of one-on-one can’t be beat. We are building a close relationship day after day. She is so innocent — much more so than other girls her age raised up on the Disney idea of beauty and self-worth. Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to live a more relaxed lifestyle than those who attend school, at least in terms of bedtimes and wake-up times. My daughter spent her first two years in private school being constantly sick. Then we moved to Texas and moved OUT of the institutional setting, and her health has been more normal. Sure, she still gets colds and other ailments. But she is not at the point where she is sick every day of the year, as she was in Kindergarten and first grade. Better health for us all is another benefit to homeschooling. But does that mean homeschooling is God’s will for her? Or is it MY will for her to not get as sick?
Three years ago, I had hopes that she would have a brother or sister, either natural or adopted, by now. That hasn’t been the case. My husband has not warmed up to the idea of adopting a child, and I have come to terms with this closed door. I feel extremely blessed to have my sweet daughter in my life. But knowing that her road through life is going to be one she walks alone, without siblings, is homeschooling the best option for HER?
I’ve been praying about the decision of whether or not to homeschool next year, and the verse that popped into my head is the one about the narrow road quoted above. I always thought the verse was one of Jesus’ ways of telling us that He is the ONLY way to the kingdom of heaven. But when I looked at the original Greek, God had a surprise in store for me. Take a look at the verse again:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Focus in on the word “narrow.” It is used twice in the New International Version translation, but the Greek word for each one is different. The Greek word for the first reference to “narrow” is stenos, and it means narrow as we usually use the term, such as when referring to an opening. But the Greek word for the second “narrow” reference is thlibo. It means to press hard on something (such as on grapes), or to be compressed. It was used as a metaphor to depict someone being troubled or afflicted or distressed. Squeezed. Squished, like a grape.
So…Jesus seems to be saying that the road that leads to life is not an easy road. It is a road that compresses those who walk upon it. Only a few find it…but Jesus told us to enter it. To walk on it. To be different.
The word “thlibo” accurately describes the way many homeschool moms and students feel, especially at the end of the school year! It isn’t easy having the discipline to “do school” every day…but we do it nonetheless! It feels distressing sometimes knowing that the only day nothing outside of the home is scheduled is Monday. We are involved in activities with other children: Classical Conversations and Science class give my daughter instruction in a classroom setting and puts her around other children.
But is it enough? Classic opponents of homeschooling point to students’ “lack” of socialization. Because of my child’s status as an Only, I take her socialization very seriously. I walk the road that squeezes the energy out of me because I believe it is God’s way for us, at this point in time. There may come a time that He leads us elsewhere, but for now, as she enters fifth grade, I am fairly confident that the “homeschool” trail is where He is leading. I’ll continue to pray for guidance.
I’ve often bought into the conventional Christian wisdom that a person who is operating in God’s will experiences smooth sailing. But looking at Jesus’ words more closely tells me that those who have entered that narrow gate find a pathway that presses down. This thought goes right along with other parts of God’s word:
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ ” -Zecharaiah 13
Paradoxically, the fact that I am feeling pressed is a good sign that I am on the right road! Now that is an encouraging word, from Jesus’ mouth, to my heart! I am so thankful to have His word at my fingertips and in my heart.