Partly by accident and partly by design, our kids have been raised completely outside the conventional whirl of busyness—sports, academic activities, enrichment opportunities, mission trips, youth groups, even friends. It hasn’t been pleasant or comforting, and the further our family walks down the path we charted, the scarier it gets.
It’s been a long time since I looked down on folks who follow a conventional path, who look to their community for guidance on how to proceed. Adopting an off the shelf lifestyle can free you to do other things besides constantly rethinking every last aspect of your life. I like having a deep understanding of the world around me and how I fit into it, but I am no longer certain pursuing it was worth the cost to me and my family. We keep going in this direction only because at this point there is no turning back.
One thing I’ve learned: an understanding of how things ought to be is far less important than an ability to deal with things as they are. You can have both, but the cost in time, resources, risk, and social uncertainty is prohibitive.
Many of us have opted for the former, deciding that we can shape our lives to match our ideals through a sheer act of will. We then deny our failures by adjusting our ideals down to a point where they match our efforts. We persuade ourselves that holiness somehow transforms what is mediocre into something that trumps secular excellence.
Right now I’m reading James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World, which makes the case that Christianity did not succeed because it was true, but because Christians took that truth into the secular marketplace of ideas and triumphed on the market’s terms. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and so on were excellent thinkers by everyone’s standards, not just those of the Christian ghetto.
I have no interest in changing the world, and so it does not bother me that Christianity lost its grip on the culture when it chose not to compete in that marketplace but instead adopted standards of "excellence" that the world rightly dismisses. But it does disturb me to see so many brothers and sisters enslaving themselves to those false standards, to no good effect and at the expense of the joy that could be theirs if only their lives were properly balanced.