Pilgrim Parent and the Three Shrines

Mom and Kids Walking Outdoors

Confession time: Today I didn’t want to be the parent.

I didn’t want to do schoolwork. My daughter was willing and eager, but when she sat down in her favorite school-time chair my heart sank. Why do I have to do this again?

Another child sought my counsel on an issue she is facing. Now, I love that we have that relationship; I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But the question required some tough thinking and careful consideration. Why do I get the hard-to-answer questions? I don’t feel old enough to do this well yet!

And when supper time came, little comments and jokes were made about my push for having vegetables at meals. Yes, it’s a little thing, but those little things add up, don’t they? I’m getting weary of being the “bad guy” and making the unpopular decisions.

Being a parent isn’t always easy. A parent has a God-given responsibility to take up the reins of the household and steer the course.

Sometimes we don’t want to be the one to make the decisions, especially when we realize just how much our decisions can affect the atmosphere of our homes. Sometimes we grow weary of being the one in charge, of the daily discipline of directing all the precious personalities and all the necessary tasks.

Let’s face it, some days even deciding what we’re going to have for supper can seem overwhelming! It’s just one more decision we have to make! One more responsibility we have to fulfill.

Charlotte Mason recognized the burden that one in authority carries, especially a parent. And she painted a picture in writing to communicate a loving caution for us all (Vol. 2, pp. 12, 13).

Here is the story of Pilgrim Parent and the Three Shrines.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a pilgrim, traveling down the road to your destination. In your arms you are carrying the Burden of Authority—the weight of doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done, of being the one in charge, of directing your family’s day every day.

Along the side of this road that you are traveling are three shrines. In its most general term, a shrine is a sacred place dedicated to something you respect or worship.

The first shrine you come upon is Popularity. It’s very tempting to set down your burden at this shrine. Forget carrying the weight of being in charge; I want to enjoy being everyone’s best friend. I want them to like me!

The second shrine along the path is Busyness. This is a common place to cast off the Burden of Authority. I have other projects that I would much rather focus on, so I’ll drop this responsibility of parenting to make room to carry those others instead.

The third shrine is quite crowded. Many parents have stopped there. It is the shrine of Ease. Oh, this Burden of Authority feels heavy! Why do I have to be the one to work so hard? It would be much easier to just let things take their course and not worry about doing what is best.

It’s a powerful picture, isn’t it? Especially when we think of it in personal terms.

For example, we, as parents, are called to instill habits purposefully. But sometimes we abandon the work on a worthwhile habit because a child doesn’t appreciate its value and doesn’t want to do it. Or maybe we simply neglect to focus on habits, because other tasks keep crying for our attention. Or perhaps we have given up on habit-training, because it requires consistent work and we just don’t want to put forth the effort.

We are called to do homeschooling faithfully. Yet it’s tempting to hit or miss lessons based on which ones the children think are fun, or which ones we can squeeze in between the activities we really want to do, or which are easiest for us to accomplish.

We are called to present living ideas abundantly. But maybe we set that aside when all our friends are focused on memorizing facts. Or we neglect spreading the feast because it’s faster to plop the child in front of a textbook or easier to plop him in front of a TV.

Authority does not shrug off its burden for the sake of Popularity. We do what is best even if the children don’t want to or our friends are all doing something else.

Authority does not sacrifice what is most important for other Busyness. We guard our hearts and minds from being distracted by the urgent and focus on the eternal.

Authority does not worship Ease. We do what we know is right even when we don’t feel like it, even when it’s difficult.

Parenting is a high calling. We are responsible for directing the atmosphere, discipline, and life of the home! And we dare not lay down that responsibility. For when we refuse to carry the load, the children either try to lift it themselves or are left floundering without the loving leadership they so desperately need.

And so, fellow Pilgrim Parent, once again Charlotte’s wise words encouraged me to keep going. How about you? Tomorrow is a new day. It will come with its parenting challenges, we can be sure. But as we walk that road, let’s purpose once again to joyfully and faithfully embrace the authority—the responsibility—that we are called to carry. Perhaps even treasure it.

For the children’s sake.


  1. Thank you for this timely wisdom and encouragement. You and Charlotte Mason have always been very good at both, as I continue on this journey with my children.

  2. Thank you Sonja for this post. I myself so needed to hear this. I’ve felt exactly like this since we started school last week. Add to this, an older child (just graduated) that is not making good choices and is in rebellion. I have to be honest, the shrine of ease has been calling my name.
    Thank you again for the words of encouragement. I’m going to pick up my burden, (with a better attitude) and push forward.

  3. Thank you thank you for this timely encouragement. The Lord has been speaking to me on this exact topic the last couple days. I haven’t felt well for quite a few years and have let so many things fall by the wayside. My children are growing up as Proverbs says “left to themselves” without the instruction they so much need. But with the Lords help I know I can do it, FOR THE CHILDRENS SAKE.

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