While listening to Prof. Greg Koukl at this weekend’s Apologetics Conference, I realized that his comments on witnessing also provided insights for us as parents. He said, “I’m a gardener, not a harvester.” It struck a chord with me as I remembered Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. 

In this parable, Jesus actually describes four soils and their respective harvests: the path or hardened soil (seed quickly plucked away by the birds), the rocky soil (quick visible results that wither quickly in the summer sun), the thorny, weedy soil (seedlings choked out by the cares of this world and desire for other things), and the good soil (producing an abundant harvest).
What can we do so that we see an abundant harvest in our children’s hearts, minds and lives? Koukl said that, “Before there can be a harvest, there has to be a season of gardening.” As a pastor making disciples, I found that my job was to do what every good gardener does:
  1. Cultivate hard, fallow ground. Once, I was given a patch of ground to use for a garden, but it was all grass. I needed to turn over the sod, remove the grass and all its tentacles (ribosomes), break up the dirt until it was soft and ready. As a pastor, I sometimes had to help people work through the wounds that had hardened their hearts so that they were not receptive to the good news of God’s love and grace. As parents, we too discover times when our children have hardened their hearts and closed their minds. Cultivating demands patience. But without it, the seeds will never penetrate as they need to.
  2. Remove the boulders that block the roots from reaching the water table. I would ask myself, “What are the world views that block a person from sinking roots deep into the water of God’s Word?” Things like evolution, naturalism, false views of Christianity, etc.
  3. Weed the soil so that it is prepared to receive the seeds. As parents we are constantly addressing the cares of this world and the desire for other things as our children grow. As a gardener, this is more of a constant process than a once and done deal.
In the Midwest, we would end up with soil that was soft and rich, just waiting to be implanted with our veggies or fruit trees, etc. Then there was still the work of planting and watering and weeding until the plants were grown and filled with “fruit.” Koukl said, “The harvesting is easy when the fruit is ripe.”
My grandchildren are going through some tough times with this COVID season. Westin and Ainsleigh are still at-home learners when many of their friends are starting in-person learning. Their favorite teachers will no longer be there teachers since they are only teaching the in-person learners. They never get to see their friends except for parking lot birthday parties where families are way spread out and you get to wave and dance with your friends from 15 feet or more away.
Westin and Ainsleigh asked Hope the other day through lots of tears, “Mom, if God is all powerful and all good, why doesn’t He just heal the world of the coronavirus?” Wow, that’s a question that adults can barely answer, how do you explain these things to a 9 and a 7 year old? It helps to know that Hope does not have to answer this question to perfection right now so that her children “get it.”  She doesn’t have to get a harvest from her discussions, but simply needs to keep gardening.
Her kind care for their hearts will keep the soil tender. Her teaching of God’s truth will plant seeds that will grow in their understanding. Her paying attention to and encouragement of their best impulses during this time will help to build character. Their prayer times together during this time will train them to seek God for answers.
We are always gardeners. Our continual care of this garden called our family will help to ripen the fruit of our children’s souls. When it is ripe, it will fall off into God’s hands. Sometimes this happens while they are still under our roof. Sometimes it won’t happen until they are considerably older. But God is a co-gardener who will continue to work on them according to His perfect wisdom.
Rest in the work. Koukl said that his job was to put a stone in people’s shoes. Rather than trying to wrestle people like crocodiles, binding them with ropes and grappling them to the ground, Koukl would rather plant a niggling thought in people’s minds that they cannot get rid of. Like hearing the catchy tune of an obnoxious ad during your morning drive. Try as you might you can’t shake it. May God give us the wisdom to plant niggling thoughts in our children’s minds from which they cannot escape.
Your fellow gardener, Christopher
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