Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mentors are not GHMs

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."Titus 2:3-5

Through the years I have been so blessed by women who have taken time to "teach what is good." The first was my mother. She was not perfect any more than I am, but she was an example of love, self-control, diligence, kindness and fidelity. Her example was the soil I put down roots in. She was the primary and first influence; but there have been many more "spiritual mothers" in my life.

John Holt said once, "When the student is ready, the teacher will come" and throughout my life, whenever I've become aware I needed to learn more about some aspect of my vocation, I've found those teachers. Sometimes the voice was from a book, sometimes from an email mentor, sometimes from a real life friend or relative. These voices are blessings and integrally part of our Church communion.

Christian women who "teach what is good" are not the same as Gestapo Homeschooling Moms. There is a polar difference, and I have been trying to figure out where the difference is. Ironically, it is probably the principled, generous-hearted "mentoring" souls who have a gift for coming alongside their sisters and supporting them in their paths, who are most likely to feel convicted of being GHMs, when in fact they are almost the opposite.

So, what is the difference between a TItus 2 mentor and a Gestapo Homeschooling Mom? (please keep in mind that this is MY take on Cindy's original description and does not speak for her)

You can be passionate and have strong beliefs without being a GHM. You can share what is working for you without implying that it will always work for everyone. You can keep your ideas planted in principles that are firmly rooted in Christian teachings, not specific rules or methods that are beyond and aside from God's laws. In doing these things, you are being transparent and revealing yourself honestly, not making rules that don't apply to everyone. If you say, "Team sports are not Christian" or "Don't put your boys in team sports" you are heading towards GHM territory, but if you say, "this is why we do team sports" or "this is why we don't" , that allows other women enough room to see whether your ideas and methods will work for them or seem consistent with what they know of the truth.

GHMs will say "You must" and "you can't" or "This is what I do because it's the best/God's way/the only Christian way". There is no room there. The only way to progress in holiness is by becoming more like them. That's the very kind of thing the Titus 2 woman is commited to NOT saying. Titus 2 women are on the same path as those they are helping, and they offer a helping hand through the obstacles and twists and turns. They admit that they too still need a helping hand and inspiration at times. That is part of their witness -- that there is no final perfection short of God. There is humility there. GHMs think they already ARE the persons to admire and emulate. They have the answers. They have a closed system and tend not to let new things in.

The Titus 2 woman is an evangelist, an inspiration. She tries to open doors, not close them. She tries to provide a Christian vision and show her attempts to live by that vision. She says "you could..." or "I try to..." or "God says ..." (when He really DID say that) not "you can't" or "you must.." or "God says..." (when it is only a personal interpretation of God's word) The GHM is essentially a Pharisee, "heaping burdens on others' shoulders", going beyond God's word.

There's another aspect that I'm becoming aware of more recently, and that's the part I was trying to put into words in my last post. A person who is feeling insecure or inadequate can "LET" someone be a GHM-voice who really isn't. Sometimes when I'm feeling inadequate, even the honest testimony of others can throw me off my track because it's so far ahead of where I am or just not what my family needs at that time. That does not make that testimony into the prescriptions of a GHM -- it makes ME someone who has to guard myself from being overly "attached" to my ideals, to the point where I become discouraged. There are times when other voices become a distraction to the voices of God, my husband, my children, and I have to discern when that is the case. That is my responsibility, not anyone else's.

The Titus 2 woman will ultimately point to God, to your husband and children. She will want her wisdom to support your ability to hear those voices, not distract from them. The GHM is a busybody who wants to barge in and take over. When you are putting a Titus 2 woman's voice over the voices of your own family, you are making her into an "inner GHM". That is unfair to everyone concerned.

Lots of young homeschoolers looking for someone to latch onto that will give them everything they need-- a method, an outlook, a way of life. Most genuine Christian mentoring women have probably felt that pressure at some time in their lives -- to step into the role of Brave Leader, or Proverbs 31 Woman, so others can simply follow. To become those weaker souls' "inner GHM".

I think many young moms get discouraged and burned out because they're trying to be perfect right away rather than simply taking the next step in their own path and working out their own principles and methods by trial and error. Sometimes they want to transplant someone else's blooms into their soil, wholesale, and they think by doing everything you do they will just BE , the "perfect" Christian woman they admire.

But in reality what these moms ought to be looking for is an ideal, a practical help, a seed planted... wisdom. That's what it ought to be, and what Titus 2 mentoring is meant to be, but sometimes it becomes more to the young, inexperienced seeker or to the struggling older mom. Some older moms have spent their whole lives moving from one "system" or another... always seeking perfection in someone else's life, always "repenting" and starting over, but never really growing in their understanding of their own unique vocation. I have seen that face in the mirror sometimes, too, and it's a harassed, weary face.

The Titus 2 woman can't do anything to *guarantee* that no one will ever make her voice into a GHM's. Except probably just get quiet, which would be a loss of all the things that are good about sharing.... and leave the evangelizing field to the real GHMs : ).


JennGM said...

I'm really enjoying your posts on GHM. And this clarification is so well done. Thanks!

Kristina's World said...

These posts regarding GHM's are so full of wisdom! Thank you for sharing your insights.

Cindy said...

Wonderful, Willa. I can relate as well and this helps clarify a lot in how to try and help new moms.

WJFR said...

Thanks!-- I see I missed a few things when I was proofreading. Really, I did proofread, but I don't think the allergy medications and hurry to get the kids ready for a trip to town helped much! If I edited the post would I lose your comments? I don't want to do that ... : )

Rebecca said...

I have a mentor who has helped form the very important aspects of my parenting and homeschooling but is no GHM either. The gentle and beautiful nature of her home and children inspired me to ask questions and to want to emulate the good that she has fostered in her home. I was a "student ready for a teacher" and I am so grateful to have found a teacher when the need arose.

I am really enjoying your takes on the GHM, something I am struggling with these days, not attitudes toward other people but toward myself...

Love2Learn Mom said...

Excellent post and great thoughts, Willa. Thanks so much!

By the way, editing the post doesn't hurt the comments - EVER! (heehee)

WJFR said...

Thanks Love2Learn mom, for being a teacher to me on this bumpy "tech" road --LOL

Christine said...

Thank you, Willa, for this beautiful post!

Karen E. said...

Great set of posts, Willa ... thanks!