I never get my nails done. Not because I don't like them to look neat and polished, but because I can't stand sitting there waiting for them to dry, only to chip them right off the bat when I get into the car.
But we were recently on vacation, and I had time. I googled nail spas where we were staying and chose the one that was closest/had a nice name/sounded good (how else do you choose a business in a city you're only somewhat familiar with?)
As I put my scruffy non-pedicured feet into the hot water, a bubbly beachy blonde named Hollie greeted me. We chit-chatted in the nonchalant way you do when just meeting the person who is going to scrape the dead skin off your heels. She was a nursing student, she lives with her boyfriend, she grew up in that beach town and we talked surfing.
When I told Hollie I homeschool my kids, she replied, "Oh! My best friend growing up was homeschooled! I always wanted to be, but it just never happened." Hollie's childhood, like so many, was laced with family tension and a crumbling marriage. She spent time in public school, private school, and boarding school. Homeschooling must have seemed like a steady, cozy alternative to the turmoil that marked her early school years.
I asked about her friend. What was her homeschool like? Hollie paused and then replied, "Ummm, well, I don't think they ever did any school. I mean, she can't even do simple math, still."
I wondered what Hollie's homeschooled friend was up to now. "She's got five kids with five different dads. I don't know. She up and moved them all to Ohio."
Despite the obvious failure of her friend's homeschooling experience, Hollie remainded interested in ours. I always feel like a spokesperson for homescholing in these conversations, and I talked about the academic success my kids have had, the ability to speed up or slow down the pace according to their needs, the benefits of one-on-one instruction.
Hollie told me her neighborhood was filled with "religious kids" who were homeschooled, too. "They were weird", she said. "Oh man, they were just so weird."
I acknowledged that I knew what she meant. I do. We always told our kids that they would be seen as weird, because passionate Christians who live for Christ make strange choices and are viewed as weird in our culture. But our homeschool lifestyle - the one where we didn't do this and we didn't do that and we didn't listen to this music and we didn't listen to that music and we didn't wear these clothes and we didn't wear those clothes - that was so weird to so many that it turned them OFF to Jesus entirely.
We know because we've been told. Once we left the lifestyle we thought was making us more spiritual but was actually pushing us farther and farther from the cross and marking us as weird, several people who had been in our lives for the past decade suddenly saw JESUS. They wanted Him, too. They just never wanted the weird lifestyle we said went with Him.
I want us to have a voice in the marketplace, to see the gospel boldly lived out, every day. I want to see the people around us freed from the bondage of sin and this world's empty identity. I want to be like the apostle Paul, who entered culture boldly. I want to be like Jesus, a friend to sinners. Friends break bread together.
Christians need to socialize our kids. We need to be drawn to sinners, and tell our kids that the woman with the too-short skirt and the spiked heels and the cleavage that shows all but the middle and the obvious sex allure is trying desperately to find her identity, value, worth, and significance in things that will never, ever deliver. She needs Jesus, and we can deliver Him to her.
In our religious lifestyle, we would have taught our boys to shield their eyes and our girls to turn their noses up and not spend any time with her. But that is not what Jesus did. He socialized with such women, repeatedly, because He knew that He was the only One who could deliver a solid, freeing, everlasting identity, value, worth, and significance.
As a weird homeschooler, I drew a few people to homeschooling, but no one to Christ.
I know the arguments. I've been homeschooling for almost 16 years, and not only have I heard them all, I bought into them, too. Wise friendships for kids? Yes. Isolation from all that is "worldly"? No. Because the world is dying. The world needs Jesus, and we are the only ones who can bring Him to them. The gospel, grace, our dying neighbors - they all trump our perfect little bubbles and white-washed lifestyles anyday.