our Ben tree
This week I am enjoying the last of fall colors on our street. Rains a few days ago shook the leaves from some of the trees but in our front yard, the two maples are still full and intense, casting a golden glow into the rooms on that side of the house. It is my favorite week of the year with the last bit of summer loveliness quickly fading and the coziness of winter promising to visit us soon. We planted the larger of these trees the year our son Ben was born and it serves as a daily reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to our family.
During the first four years of our marriage, we had three children and were pretty overwhelmed. During my pregnancy with the third, I told my doctor that I wanted to have my tubes tied right after delivery and still remember the look on his face and his response, “Mrs. Campbell!” he admonished. “You are only 25 years old! I would never consider doing such a thing! You may want to have more children in the future. I will not do this.”
Still determined to limit our family to three children, we were content for 7 years…until we attended a Basic Seminar with Bill Gothard. Only two years into his ATI program, he painted a vision for us that was forever to change our lives. Six weeks later we pulled our children out of public school and began homeschooling, six months later I was pregnant with child number four. Now, 28 years, 6 kids, and 14 grandchildren later, I am still grateful for the message we heard that late November night: that children are a blessing and we should consider having more, that homeschooling is good for children and parents, we should try it. God opened our hearts and minds to His will for our family.
We had to learn many lessons in the years that followed. We never fully bought into the Gothard paradigm, though I was the one who often wanted us to try. I was wooed by the navy neck bows and a 5000 member choir of spit-shined young people singing “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” Clay, not so much. But our love of little ones and homeschooling never waned and the Lord blessed us in spite of many years when my family threatened to become a form of idolatry in my own life. When the pride of seeking perfection blinded me to real people and their real needs. When I didn’t realize that loving God really meant loving others more than myself.
This has been a difficult week for many moms. Doug Phillips is the man the Lord used to inspire their husbands to consider the value of being a dad. He is the one who painted a picture of motherhood for them that resonated with the God-given desire most women have to nurture and love children. He gave them hope for their families in a world that most Christians realize is increasingly post-modern if not downright pagan. He inspired families to love America and to see God’s sovereignty in many places we had forgotten it existed. And those messages are true and good ones.
But somehow hearing criticism of the man and his philosophies has translated to these wonderful moms that their choices have not been valid ones. And this is the real sadness of it all. Because God HAS used Vision Forum for good in many ways IN SPITE OF the bad theology, IN SPITE OF the dangerous teachings, IN SPITE OF the damage done to so many. But rather than minimize or ignore the false teachings and pretend it is genuine Biblical truth, now is the time to say, “God is good, He has led our family, not because of what Doug Phillips said but because God showed us these things by His grace alone!”
Now is also the time for families who have been caught up in the patriarchy paradigm to ask hard questions. It is time to put away the big red manuals, the endless CD’s of “encouragement,” the books and programs and conference paraphernalia and pick up the Bible. It is time for parents to humble themselves and seek forgiveness from their children, some of them long-estranged because the paradigm taught that they should be. It is time to repent of the pride of who has a larger family, who is interning where, who is courting whom, who has the most modest clothes, who God is blessing, who He is cursing, etc. Have you been blessed? Rejoice and be grateful! Are you struggling? Rejoice and be grateful! Reject the idolatry of the paradigm, embrace the relationships around you. Pull out one of the one anothering verses every single day, over and over again, and live them! Love God, love your children, love your neighbors. Welcome God’s grace and be thankful for how God alone, not Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard, a patriarchal leader, radio teacher, or any man, has brought you to this point!
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” ~ Jonah 2:8