We've all heard the act of parenting likened to tending a garden. As parents, we plant seeds of discipline and character in our children, then water, fertilize, weed and care for those seeds, knowing it takes hard work and a great deal of time before any fruit is produced. Some aspects of child-rearing are like zucchini vines: it takes just a few weeks of care from seed to plant to flower to fruit. Other seeds in our children are slow-growing; it may be months or even years before we see the fruit of our labors.
Well, if parenting is truly like gardening, then the past few weeks have left me with sore and blistered hands, as I've tended, weeded, pruned tender shoots, and burned away the chaff. I've worked diligently. I've been down on my knees in the dirt and manure, up to my elbows in the hard soil of my children's hearts. In other words, it's been rough.
I confessed to a friend earlier this week that while I have complete and total faith in the eventual fruit that will come, in the people my children one day be, there are many days that I don't know if I have the strength to do the weeding, pruning and tending that is absolutely necessary for their gardens to thrive. I skimp on the water, forget the fertilizer, and get careless in my weeding. I pull up flowers with the weeds.
And sadly, in working so hard to tend their gardens, to form their hearts and shape their character, I lose sight of the weeds in my own plot. Huge thistles and thorns threaten to overtake my own garden as I watch theirs for any signs of green. Before I know it, my weeds are reproducing and invading on their tender and vulnerable seedlings. In neglecting my own garden, I put theirs at risk.
In the Bible, there are many references to gardens, trees, and seeds. Jesus tells his followers, "I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me will bear much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." For the past few weeks I have prayed for patience, for strength to endure the hard work of pruning and tending. Yet I have forgotten that my own garden still grows, still needs tending.
Much like my children are works in progress, gardens caught in between seed and fruit, I am still learning to grow. I still need pruning in my life. Without bending to the knowledge and authority of the Master Gardener of my own soul, weeds start to creep in and before long, threaten to take over. I forget to be patient with myself. I neglect the gentle care, watering, and waiting in my own garden. I trust God to take care of my children but forget to trust him to take care of me.
But here's the good news: much like the secret garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett's book by the same name, there is no plot beyond salvaging. While weeds and invasive plants may creep in, grow tall, and cover up the flowers, a good and thorough gardener will find the beauty within. It will take hard work--lots of pruning, pulling up, and cutting away--but underneath the overgrowth, a beautiful garden will come into view.
And the best news: the Master Gardener never grows weary. He loves to work on my plot. Whereas I, in all my human feebleness, complain about the blisters and long to wash the dirt out from under my fingernails, my Heavenly Father relishes the work. He delights in seeing my flowers bloom and grow. He doesn't see an overgrown garden, a weed-infested land, thistles or thorns; he sees tender seedlings and hidden buds.
So I find myself this weekend, with my children away and the sun shining down, allowing some gardening to take place. I'm trusting that beneath it all, there's yet some green to flourish.