My daughter-in-law has always had a passion for gardening. This year she’s gone all out, studying, planning and growing what’s termed a square foot garden in multiple raised boxes built by her hubby. 

The more I reflect on raising my five children and the parenting role I’ve played, the more it reminds me of gardening.

According to statistics, many of you reading this article love nothing more than to have your hands in the dirt, working away in your landscaped beds of bushes and flowers or fruit and vegetable gardens. Time flies as you plan, purchase, dig, and plant your living plot of ground, envisioning the possibilities of beautiful blossoms and luscious fruit. You carefully place protective shields to safeguard against critters and frost so your ‘babies’ will be safe when unattended. Laying in bed at night, you worry that perhaps the storm that’s predicted might beat too hard upon your tender shoots, and you breathe out a prayer, yes, even for your treasured vines and veggies.

Day-by-day care is demanded; watering can’t be left for ‘whenever.’ Weeds are sneaky and relentless. Flowers are fragile – each requires a particular approach. Time will be your friend . . . and foe. Miracle-Gro can support your best efforts, but no magic exists to fast-forward your progress. Asparagus takes five long years to yield a harvest, tomatoes appear in mere months. At times, you feel your work never ends, and yet, it’s the work you love most!

Parenting parallels each of these principles, wouldn’t you agree? To be perfectly honest, I’m no green thumb. As much as I love the smell of soil and  the satisfaction of fresh cut flowers, I just don’t have much interest in applying myself to gardening the earth, but I’m passionate about gardening the next generation – those eternal souls with inestimable potential who will tower over us like giant oaks one day soon.

I believe it’s up to us parents to garden our children’s lives in such a way that they, too, flourish like a productive field. They should yield abundant fruit and ample provision to share with the masses, becoming a blessing to the world around them. How do we cultivate and work this organic land of our children’s lives, realizing the possibility residing within them? 

I don’t know about you, but at our house we’ve had to continually hoe, fertilize, and prune our living plants. At times, intent upon going their own way, they had to be pulled taut for a season, snug against the standard of our values, just like a young tree staked and bound with thick rubber cord. The attention it takes to nurture these ‘saplings’ is all-consuming. Their neglect is unforgiving.

How many parents give long, hard thought, year after year, to their winter bulbs, spring seedlings, and summer harvests, but give such little consideration to nurturing the garden of their children’s hearts? Proverbs 29:15b sadly reminds us, “. . . a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” How many youngsters, left to themselves, never had their soil carefully tended or their multiple and diverse weeds addressed? What we overlook today in our offspring will surely produce a crop we’re forced to deal with later. That little seed of stubbornness and rebellion we repeatedly ignore, will grow and multiply if left long enough. The end result will be an unmanageable teenager who was left unrestrained and ‘had his way’ as a preschooler.

This reminds me of a blackberry vine, common to our region in the Pacific Northwest. Seemingly innocent and laden with tiny blossoms and prized fruit, it cunningly begins to work its way into and around anything within its proximity. Before long, our city government is found spending loads of taxpayer money to destroy these prolific, thorn-covered, resistant, weed ropes which have become intolerable nuisances to our yards, streets, and parks. No matter how cute and sweet they once were, they’ve become a nightmare. Children in their growing-up years have the same potential if left to themselves. How much public money is spent in our cities nationwide to manage the transgressions of our youth?

When I look upon the condition of multitudes of adults today, I grieve over the harmful character flaws which have overtaken these human gardens: laziness, self-indulgence, moodiness, self-centeredness, stinginess, addictions, unhealthy eating patterns, and more. Each of these vices had a root that could have been addressed so many years ago.

Work your land while time is on your side. When children are young and flexible like tender shoots, it’s relatively easy to stake those vines and adjust their growth pattern. But when we ignore their offenses, saying, “They’re just kids,” “Boys will be boys,” or “It’s child’s play,” we fail to see their faults as a snare, a deadly pattern which we are encouraging and actually training into our young plantings. Proverbs 19:18 urges us to, “discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” How detrimental these flaws will become to our children if left to flourish! If only we could see the end result from our patterns of parenting, rather than live for the moment. 

Weeding in our homes may be left undone because it’s hard, unpleasant work, and weeds are persistent. This human gardening requires exhaustive patience and face-to-face interaction if we’re going to see valuable character qualities blossom and sweet fruit borne. We must engage until harvest. At season’s end, one can wish for something they failed to nurture, but to no avail. “I’m longing for fresh corn, oh I want corn,” they say, but did they plant corn? “No,” is the reply. “There wasn’t time.” Then there will be no corn.

I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds,” Pro. 24:30-31

My daughter in-law is already harvesting a bounty of beautiful organic produce. It’s been exhilarating for her to see the sprouts become viable, edible ingredients for her families’ dinner menu!

Their project’s value is multiplied because it’s a family affair, with their young children learning and participating in the process as well. Observing their garden grow is a beautiful phenomenon not just for their family, but for all of us who visit and experience it as well! Their hard work is paying off and is a blessing to so many. 

Isn’t this our desire for our ‘human gardens’ as well? We all long to raise healthy, hearty youngsters who will impact the world around them. Our hard work will pay off and our children will be a blessing – even a beautiful phenomenon – if we faithfully attend to these, our miraculous human plants.

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