New Thoughts of God, New Hopes of Heaven. 

Vanoziva kuti mdhara achauya,
Ahaa mdhara wacho ishumba inoruma.
Ahaa unyerere uchingoshaina
Ahaa unyerere uchingoshaina

(Link to Original Song and the English Version)

This is a song of hope. A song of new hope for our land and people. About a husband coming back from the battlefront to his wife, this song captured the hope of a people who had been heart sick from a hope deferred. I sit outside on our verandah, listening to our neighbour’s three year old daughter Melissa, her little voice singing her version of the husband’s promise with delightful toddler verve. This new hope has changed perspectives in Zimbabwe and now a flag that was once laid aside is proudly displayed by individuals; old promises have been dusted off and read again, and we have a confident expectance of good things ahead for our nation.

Our Hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock we stand,
All other ground is sinking sand…

This has been the term’s hymn for our homeschool community that meets weekly here in Harare. Though many may base their hope in man, our hope is based on the Goodness of God, our trials are teaching us to lean into Him.

In her volume entitled Parents and Children, Charlotte Mason examines the fresco of The Descent of the Holy Spirit Upon the Intellect and tells us, “that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius.” (Vol. 2, pp. 270-271)

Every time I’ve studied this fresco with Charlotte and our local study groups (thanks to Brandy for her Start Here study guide), I have found fresh insights into the work of God in education. Namely, that all subjects are under the direction of the Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit, and  that this encompasses all aspects of a child’s education, including their faith, hope and charity (Vol. 2, p. 273). In the last few months I’ve had an awakening to hope and I’d like to share the impact it has had on my parenting and teaching journey. Before I do though, I’d like to go on a little exploration with you.

Continuing with Charlotte’s examination of the fresco, she quotes John Ruskin,

“Beneath the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit in the point of the arch beneath are the three Evangelical Virtues. Without these, says Florence, you can have no science. Without Love, Faith, and Hope—no intelligence.” Vol. 2, p. 269  (c.f., 1 Corinthians 13:13)

Hope

Enter the esteemed Thomas Aquinas …

He is the central figure of this fresco; let’s see what he had to say about hope.

In his Summa Theologica (II-II, Q. 17), he wrote that,

  1. The object of hope is a future good (Art. 1)
  2. It is a habit of the mind (Art. 1, ad. 1)
  3. It attains God by leaning on His help in order to obtain the hoped-for good (Art. 2)
  4. We should hope from Him for nothing less than Himself, since His goodness, whereby He imparts good things to His creature, is no less than His Essence. Therefore the proper and principal object of hope is eternal happiness. (Art. 2)
  5. Hope makes us adhere to God, as the source whence we derive perfect goodness. (Art. 6).

Let’s have a look at a couple of these points in more detail.

 

Minds Occupied with Hopes of Heaven (Art. 1)

In Mere Christianity in the chapter titled Hope, C. S. Lewis wrote,

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world … If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.

(The object of hope is a future good – Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 17, Art. 1)

Charlotte Mason gives some guiding principles and methods to cultivate this habit of a hope of heaven. It is a habit of the mind (Art. 1, ad. 1).

In Volume 3 she writes about the student:

What he needs is to be guided into true, happy thinking; every day should bring him ‘new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.‘* He understands things divine better than we do, because his ideas have not been shaped to a conventional standard; and thoughts of God are to him an escape into the infinite from the worrying limitations, the perception of the prison bars which are among the bitter pangs of childhood. To keep a child in this habit of the thought of God — so that to lose it, for even a little while, is like coming home after an absence and finding his mother out — is a very delicate part of a parent’s work. (pp. 140-141)

In Chapter 13 of School Education, Charlotte provides us with some guidance that is necessary to bring up children in ‘the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ Some instructions concerning the atmosphere of reverence in the home, the habits of bible reading, devotions, praise and Sunday-keeping, are just a few examples. Go read it again, it’s so good!

I’d like to add a personal example of how the ideas in a literary work had an impact on my childhood soul. I didn’t realise it at the time, but one of my first encounters with ‘new thoughts of God and hopes of heaven’ occurred when reading the Chronicles of Narnia. Years later, the thought of Lucy riding on Aslan with her face in his mane, and a deeper insight into the Father-heart of God, brought healing from past hurts.

And lastly …

 

Clinging to a God from whom Perfect Goodness Comes (Art. 6)

One biblical definition of hope is a ‘confident expectation’ for future good (Art. 1), a hope that is based on the goodness of God (Art. 2). Compare it with the more modern translation of the Chambers Dictionary, where hope is described as “cherishing a desire (that something good will happen), with some expectation of success or fulfilment.”

There is no confident expectation in that definition, instead it expresses uncertainty!

I have often hoped in my own capabilities. I’m learning to call on the help of the Holy Spirit in my home and the school room. Slowly but surely, my thinking is adjusting from a wishy-washy ‘uncertain’ hope in myself, or man, to having a confident expectation in the Father’s goodness. Now when life throws me a curveball and it feels like there is no more joy and peace I’m leaning into the God of Hope who fills me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit  I may abound in hope (Romans 15:13).

An example. When my daughter’s dyslexia started to bring her despair (Proverbs 13:12), co-operating with  the Holy Spirit the Instructor of youth, I had to rethink how I approached her reading lessons. I took a step back and assessed the atmosphere of these lessons and saw that there was no peace or joy in them. ‘Education is a Life’,  I’ve had to tweak our lessons and we are frequently being confronted with  the idea of perseverance in life and in our books. Progress is still slow but the ‘light of hope’ is once again ignited in her and she is much more joyful and peaceful during her lessons.

I am learning to measure my hope level (confident expectation in the God of hope) by the  joy and peace I have in any given situation in the classroom/home. Is my hope based on how well my child is behaving? How far we have progressed in our school schedule for the term? In the curriculum we are using? My teaching ability? The testable knowledge of my student?  No, it is in the God of Hope.

The God of hope, who brings new thoughts of who He is and new hopes of heaven to a mom, a teacher and a nation.

 


* Charlotte uses this phrase a few times in her volumes. The only reference I found to it online is in the Hymn ‘New Every Morning is the Love’.

 

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