Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Steady state

When a person takes a medication, after the first few doses they reach steady state. If you plot the concentration of the drug in the blood against time, you see a few deep peaks and troughs, and then after a couple of days, everything levels out into steady ups and downs, and we say that the drug has reached 'steady state'. Lately, I have felt a little as though I have reached steady-state in terms of life.

For about five years, I wrote a blog post every week. Those were the early years of parenting. Those were the years of adjusting to cross-cultural living with a young family. Those were the years when we considered long and hard the different approaches to education, decided to home educate, and then decided to use a literature-based approach to develop critical thinking and active learning (we use Sonlight, but there are other curricula that have a similar philosophy). Often I would write to reflect on something we had read, or experienced. Sometimes I would write in response to a challenge or a trial which presented itself.

It is not that life is devoid of trials these days. But rather, I sometimes feel that many of the bigger, more foundational questions about how we structure our life, work, education of our children and other responsibilities have been answered, at least in principle. The goals that we set in these early years remain - but they are long-term goals, with no quick check-lists or neat comments to describe how the goal was met. Rather, we have set the foundations and the directions for our family life, and what comes next is the outworking of those goals and that direction. And that can be a fairly busy time, perhaps with less time for reading and reflection compared to when the children were tiny.

Recently, we reflected how twenty one years ago we met and talked about our hopes and dreams for the future. At the time we were medical students, dreaming about how we might one day use our skills to serve the Lord overseas. Twenty one years later, we can see how we have spent most of the past twelve years living in working in Africa, having lived in southern, west, and now east Africa. We talked about how we would like to have children, and also about how we might consider adoption. We have since had three biological children and adopted two. We considered different potential avenues of ministry, and looking back we can see how we have often become involved in leading small groups Bible studies from our home, often involving students and young professionals who are asking themselves many of the same questions as we did more than two decades ago. Back then, I don't think either of us had particularly heard of or thought about home education, but the more we investigated, read and learnt about it, we became convinced that this was the right approach for our family, at least for the time being. Although not always the easiest path, we can reflect on how each of our children is growing in different areas, and that we have time to focus on the challenging areas (and in that, I would include behaviours). Also, over the past twenty one years we have been through various griefs and trials which have refined our faith, and provided us with a firm confidence that even in the darkest of times in this world, God's truth never fails and we can look forward to a heaven where there will be no more sorrow or pain.

It is not that I think we have answered all the questions, or that we have no more goals! But rather, we continue to work along a steady trajectory. And so, week by week, there is not always a topic that I feel needs unpacking to the extent that I previously did. Or, when I do feel such a topic arises, I can often find a similar post that I have written at some point over the past five years.

So, I intend to write when I think it is helpful - both for myself, and for those who might be reading this blog. Perhaps there will come another season of regular challenges, changes in perspective, changes in direction, response to event within our family, church or society or so forth. And perhaps there will come a time when I simply have a little more time to really dig into some of the issues that I have touched upon in this blog.

Recently I read a helpful analogy (I can't remember the source) - that you spend the first half of your life building a container - building those foundations and structures that will shape your life. And then, you spend the second half of your life filling that container. Apparently a mistake that people can make (and organisations - the analogy applies there also) is to spend the whole of life rebuilding the 'container'. The analogy resonated with me, as I feel we have moved into the 'filling the container' phase.

I hope the blog continues to bring encouragement.