Day 10: Planting Seeds
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
My wife once planted a vegetable garden and, every day, she would water her tomatoes, pull out weeds, and watch for predatory worms and snails. She trained her tomatoes to climb a trellis and tenderly drew them back if they were turning one way or the other. That’s a picture of parenting as an everyday process. One of our sons went through a phase requiring discipline multiple times a day (often for the same offense). It was exhausting to deal with the tantrums, deception, and defiance. But one day at the breakfast table, my sons commented that I hadn’t had to discipline them all year long. That claim was not entirely accurate, but the moments had thankfully grown fewer and farther between.
Dads, just like tomatoes, you cannot expect your children to grow up straight without your help. Leave them alone and they will surely bear weeds. Terrible twos become terrible teens, then terrible twenties and thirties and forties. Their hearts must be cultivated to grow in godliness, so wisely tend your garden to save your children from folly.
First, start training your children when they are young. Solomon affectionately states, “When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother” (Prov. 4:3). He recalls his own childhood when he was still a tender shoot, capable of training. The word “tender” means to be “gentle” or “soft,” for this young prince was yet unformed both in body and in soul. He was undeveloped and naïve in his formative years. Dads, start training your children now while they are young and tender, for it is much easier to train a sapling than an oak.
Secondly, realize that the full benefits of raising children will not be seen immediately. According to an old Chinese proverb: “One generation plants the trees; the next generation enjoys the shade.” Likewise, spiritual wisdom involves planting seeds in the soil of your children’s lives, so that God’s blessings will be multiplied for future generations. The other day, my boys were eating cherries and uncharacteristically sucking every vestige of fruit from off the seed. Yet instead of throwing them in trash, they informed me with pride: “We’re going to plant cherry seeds somewhere in the backyard. Then we can have cherries whenever we want.” I didn’t bother to ask where they were planting the seeds, whether they had tilled the soil, or if they intended to water them every day. I just figured it would keep them busy for at least an hour. It seems that every child has had such fantasies of growing outrageously fertile plants with relatively no effort at all. Just throw some seeds over your shoulder and they will magically sprout into trees.
Jesus, however, made quite a different claim: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Jesus was not describing a magic bean or a wishful grain of wheat, but using a metaphor well-known in his agrarian society. Every farmer knew that if you planted a seed in the ground — if you watered it and waited — if God blessed the crop with sufficient rain and sunlight, then at the harvest that tiny seed of grain would bear much fruit. Jesus made the point that in order for new life to grow, that seed of grain must die. It must be planted in the ground — in the darkness devoid of sunlight. It must decompose until its hardened husk is cracked, giving way to the new life which grows within. Only then does the seed bear fruit.
Likewise, dads, parenting is a grace-filled process, so do not expect instant growth from the moment of infancy. Instead, plant your children in the nutrient-rich soil of a godly home and trust the Lord to send rain and sun in appropriate measure. Construct aqueducts to divert God’s life-giving water to your children, then pray and watch and wait. Even then, growth will not occur until your children learn what it means to die to self (Rom. 6:6) and live for Christ (Gal. 2:20). Only by grace will they bear much fruit.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Show me how to wisely cultivate the soil of our home so that my children will grow up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Help me to remember that parenting is a grace-filled process as I wait patiently for the harvest. Send the essentials for spiritual growth which only you provide and turn my children to faith in you. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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