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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hidden Even to Ourselves (CM Vanity)


Note: This post was originally published on August 26, 2011 and is being re-posted - because I think we can all afford to hear it again and again. And because I haven't blogged in a very, very long time...
I resolved in my future conduct to redeem the past; and I can say with honesty that my resolve was fruitful of some good. You know how earnestly, in the last months of the last year, I labored to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others.... [But as] I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect... at the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering.... I looked down.... I was once more Edward Hyde.
~Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


Robert Louis Stevenson, John Singer Sargent


Timothy Keller quotes this excerpt in Chapter 11 of his book The Reason For God. And I find it one worth pondering.

Charlotte Mason homeschooling has such high ideals; ideals I embrace so passionately that I blog about it, read about it, meet monthly to talk about it, etc. The words she wrote over one hundred years ago have set our feet in a very large and beautiful room indeed.

And then sometimes... when I come across others, I find I turn my chin up a little, comparing my curriculum with theirs, comparing my active care in educating my children with their drop-and-go style...

and then I get up on my pedestal and I feel oh so good about myself...

...and then all of a sudden, I see the truth and feel utterly disgusted, ashamed.

Keller writes:
Edward Hyde is so named not just because he is hideous but because he is hidden. He thinks solely of his own desires; he doesn't care in the slightest who he hurts in order to gratify himself. He kills if someone gets in his way. Stevenson is saying that even the best of people hide from themselves what is within - an enormous capacity for egotism, self-absorption, and regard for your own interests over those of all others.

Hideous and hidden - even to himself.

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are two forms of this. One form is being very bad and breaking all the rules, and the other form is being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous.

If we do it all so amazingly well and our children turn out so wonderfully fantastic, then we will be so very, very good.

This is a deadly turn of events. For the first time Jekyll becomes Hyde involuntarily, without the potion, and this is the beginning of the end. Unable to control his transformations any longer, Jekyll kills himself. ... Why would Jekyll become Hyde without the potion? Like so many people, Jekyll knows he is a sinner, so he tries desperately to cover his sin with great piles of good works. Yet his efforts do not actually shrivel his pride and self-centeredness, they only aggravate it. They lead him to superiority, self-righteousness, pride and suddenly - look! Jekyll becomes Hyde, not in spite of his goodness, but because of his goodness.

The loveliness we think we see is often ugliness of the worst sort. I wonder how many may have seen the ugliness of Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers?

Women who have to work and cannot stay home with their children? Women who submit to pressure from family to send their kids to school? Women who lack the confidence to homeschool? Women who are unable to manage it all? Women who go through a secular Charter School? Women who blend Charlotte Mason with other methods? Women with special needs children? Women on Instagram... Facebook... Blogs... Forums?

What is ugliest of all is that it is only by the grace of God that any of us have come to know about Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, and yet it is His very goodness we set aside and forget, in order that we can step up to glory.

Hideous and hidden.

Charlotte herself, said this about 'her' methods:
One discovers a thing because it is there, and no sane person takes credit to himself for such discovery. On the contrary, he recognizes with King Arthur,––"These jewels, whereupon I chanced Divinely, are for public use."
And I believe this sound view of hers came from her clarity on the gospel truth.

Keller goes on in his chapter to describe this truth for us:
The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.
There is beauty in truth and it is here that we will find it.