My husband has a garden in our backyard. Because friends comment on how great “my” garden looks when they catch a glimpse of its luscious produce, I feel the need to make clear that my husband is the gardener. The produce is a result of his labor, his research, and his creative antics to keep pests out. If the garden were left to my care, well, it would be dead. Or it would be overcome by little critters because the sad fact is that I love squirrels more than I love tomatoes.
I do contribute in one way to the care of the garden: I weed. My disposition toward weeding is that it’s simultaneously laborious and satisfying. Every time I approach the enclosed area, I loathe what needs to be done, and yet, as I start pulling what doesn’t belong, there is a sense of satisfaction in ridding the produce of all that seeks to overcome it. The process is also fairly straightforward: pull out the weeds.
One should not, incidentally,pull out entire basil plants that their husband has spent time planting and growing. These plants, I’ve learned, are not in fact weeds.
I sat with my gardener husband on our deck a few nights ago, and as he looked at the growing plants, he mentioned how much the weeding process reminds him of parenting. Immediately, this imagery resonated with me. As beautiful and satisfying as our particular parenting stage has been with teenagers, it has also brought days that feel more strenuous and challenging than ever before.
I’m reminded of the passage in Mark 4 where Jesus teaches his disciples through the parable of the sower. The story is of seeds falling in various places but never growing and flourishing until they fell into good soil, a poignant reminder that the spiritual fruitfulness or barrenness of a person is dependent on the way in which they receive the Word of God. Amongst the reasons for barrenness are the thorns and the weeds surrounding a seed. Verse 18 -19 says this:“They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” We, as parents, have a responsibility when it comes to these thorns and weeds that grow so quickly around our seedlings.
Submit the Growth to God
As our children grow spiritually, it’s our duty to steer them away from temptation and toward the Savior. What we cannot forget, however, is that the faith that begins to take root and the fruit that is borne out of spiritual growth, happens only by the grace of God at work in their lives. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in watching my husband garden, it’s that a gardener can follow every rule in the book and the tomato vines may still produce rotten fruit. Why? Because we do not ultimately have control, but we can trust fully and completely in the God who does.
Be faithful in teaching Jesus to your children, water them with His life-giving words, and don’t stop trusting in their creator. Some seeds sprout up quickly and begin producing healthy fruit early on; others take much longer to flourish, and fruit may grow even in the midst of weeds. Each precious child is in the hands of the Savior who created them, and each one will grow at different paces and in different ways, all according to God’s time and plan.
Weed, Weed, Weed
There will come a time when our children need take over the maintenance required in pulling out the temptations that seek to overcome them, but while they are still growing under our care, we are responsible to help our kids identify the weeds and teach them how to prune them out.
Admittedly, this can be exhausting. I have felt my own heart’s desire to turn away from difficult conversations with my children because of the spiritual and mental fatigue that often results. But in the strength of Christ alone, we must continue to pull the weeds that seek to choke our children’s fledgling faith. Isaiah 43 reminds us: “Fear not, for I am with you...” Seek His strength and His wisdom in keeping the weeds from taking over.
The passage in Mark points out three kinds of temptations that are important to identify because all seek to devour spiritual growth:
The cares of the world. These are the distractions and worries that cause us to lose sight of Jesus. What are the current distractions in the life of your child? Is it an unhealthy need for approval? Is it a need to perform perfectly? These weeds are often controlled by counteractive words and actions: making sure our kids know that our love for them is not contingent on what they do; affirming when they try, not only when they succeed; and showing them from God’s Word that His love is unconditional.
The deceitfulness of riches. Wealth is a deceptive weed. Things can too easily become the object of our worship, and for many of our children, seeking the newest and latest “thing” feels necessary in order to fill their soul, but finding satisfaction in riches will leave them hungry every time. These weeds are pulled as we show them the God who satisfies. They are uprooted when we take a step of faith and encourage our children to attend a mission trip, perhaps in a part of the world that might make us a little nervous but might also open their eyes to the joy that much of the world has even with few material belongings.
The desire for other things. What do you notice that your child is tempted to love more than Jesus? Is it popularity? Is it their sport of hobby? Is it their friends? None of these are wrong necessarily, but as soon as they become desires that control thinking or choices, or that preoccupy their minds more than anything else, these desires have become weeds that obstruct growth. Purposeful discipline and open conversation can help in keeping these weeds from growing out of control.
Another valuable lesson I’ve learned is that a garden will never be weed-free. Ever. I’ve tried. It just isn’t possible because we live a broken world where perpetual weeds exist. The same is true of sin and temptation. So, until the day when all things are made right and new, we have a precious job in nurturing the seeds of the garden God has placed in our care while paying careful attention to the weeds that seek to overtake them. It can be laborious, and we won’t do it perfectly, but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing glimpses of the Master Grower at work in the life of your child.