What? You don’t? Well, I say shame on you! Ok, maybe not “shame on you.” How about “let’s try it together?”
Last weekend was simply gorgeous here in the south so the Middles and I went out and turned over our garden for the spring. Now when I say “garden” I am actually referring to an eight foot square plot of earth where we bury seeds with the best of intentions. We try. I promise! And in years past we have actually gotten real live plants, some lettuce, a tomato, a handful of green beans (literally a handful and by that I mean five) and some spinach.
In my defense, it’s not the best soil. I started with pure, unadulterated Georgia red clay with a healthy helping of rocks throughout. Not exactly a plot of Miracle Gro if you get my drift. But for the last three years I have been working in leaves, old potting soil, and some yard clippings at the end of each year after I’ve admitted defeat with the promise of “next year will be better.”
I even went so far as to get a compost bin. The children dutifully took the veggie scraps out and dumped them in the bin and covered each new layer with leaves. Every so often I would go out and attempt to give it a good stir and watering. But then we found out Little was coming and gardening as we knew it came to a screaming halt. I did nothing. No tilling; no adding to the compost; no stirring. If my father hadn’t tossed some clippings and leaves on top last fall, it would have been a full year of abandonment.
So when I turned it over this past Saturday, imagine my surprise when I got shovelful after shovelful of dark earth. Worms were squiggling as quickly as possible for cover. Clumps of ground that used to require hours of hoeing were falling apart into soft earthen nests for seeds. It was quite amazing!
This morning as I sat in a parenting class with other moms, it occurred to me that our families can be very similar to a garden. We come to them sometimes with hard clay rules about how our family is going to operate and what our parenting style is going to be. But then life happens and we have leaves of experience tilled into our midst. We have the sins of our past, a child with unforeseen needs, another child with incredible gifts, a loss, a new unexpected addition, and any number of other scraps poured on top of our garden. With time all those “leaves” start to rot and break down becoming rich life lessons that add to our life.
Then, if we have it together (and I will confess that I do NOT), we will live out the fruits of the Spirit in front of our children.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Honest conversations about God’s unfailing grace and our own failings and faults till the soil of their hearts. Seeds of the Spirit lived out in us fall onto that soil. We water their hearts with our prayers and weed them our discipline. And then we have to wait.
It was driven deep into my heart today that there is nothing I can do to make any of those seeds grow. I can prepare the garden and I can tend it. But until the light of God’s love shines on the heart and causes the growth, I have to wait. I can act like a stake in the ground for my children to hold onto for support as they grow. But nothing I do will cause fruit to appear and ripen. I can train and tend and weed but only God can make the heart change that will cause my children to bear fruit.
All I can do is feed them the compost. I really feel compelled as my children get older to share the debris of my life and show them how God broke it down into something enriching. My previous reasoning for that sharing was to keep them from making the same mistakes I have made. That is still the case I guess but after more reflection, perhaps my sharing will show them that no matter what they do, God can use their compost to grow something beautiful.