Growing Goodness in our Kids
Before my first baby was born, I prepared myself for a major career change, from teaching third grade to becoming a full-time mom. I knew I had a lot to learn in my new role, as I’d heard that motherhood required the skills of multiple professions. Effective parents, I was warned, also had to be adept in the work of a nurse, nutritionist, chauffeur, office manager, coach, counselor, seamstress, event planner and referee. That’s a good start, may I suggest we add another job to the list? That of farmer.
Yep, farming. Little did I know, way back when, that becoming a mother would include a crash course in agriculture. Not right away, but the older my kids got, the more I realized I was indeed, a farmer with a budding crop. Sure, God was responsible for planting and creating these little people, but it was up to me to make sure they grew well. Wasn’t it?
Once I realized that farming was part of the gig, I dove in with both boots. Like a good rancher just starting out, I did my homework. I asked other farmer moms for advice and paid close attention to older, more experienced growers who’d been in the business for years. How did they do it? How did they ensure a “good” crop? I read articles and books. I got up early and worked hard. I wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. I kept a close eye on the weather, stood ready to battle harmful pests and prayed daily for God to bless our land.
In order to yield a successful, healthy, thriving crop, I made sure that the soil was right and provided the best environment possible. I offered plenty of water and sunshine for my kids to thrive, an abundance of love, support, and encouragement. I watched my crops carefully, pruning when necessary, nipping harmful behavior in the bud.
And sometimes, it actually worked! Hallelujah! My kids were good! They were sweet and respectful, faithful and kind. They obeyed and worked hard and made wise decisions. Receiving compliments about their behavior from friends, teachers, and total strangers at the market was like winning a blue ribbon at the county fair. And I wore those ribbons proudly. Wow, what a good farmer I must be to turn out this kind of a harvest.
Other times, however, it didn’t work at all. As hard as I tried, goodness didn’t grow. During these times, when my kids didn’t listen, refused to obey, or made poor choices, I resorted to solutions that any reasonable farmer might try…
I yelled at the crops. I pleaded with the crops. My husband and I sat down and had serious discussions with the crops. I tried negotiating with them, lecturing them, and even bribing them. Our efforts had some temporary effect, but no significant, long lasting impact on growth. Wow, what a horrible farmer I must be, raising such a poor harvest.
Now that my kid are grown and my days in the field are over, I realize that farming is simply a tricky business. As moms, we can do everything right, and still have a few shaky seasons to work through with our children. On the other hand, we can make lots of mistakes and still be granted grace and blessed with a plentiful year. I know that I tried my best to be a good farmer, but I also know that growing goodness in my kids was never really in my power. Goodness, as every other fruit of the Spirit, grows from the Spirit. It has less to do with my farming skills, and more to do with His power, His ways, His perfect timing. We can’t force it, create it or hurry it up.
So fellow farmers, don’t lose patience. Keep getting up early. Continue preparing and enriching that soil. Provide all of the water, sunshine and love you possibly can. Don’t stop paying close attention to each bud and blossom and pray ceaselessly for God to bless your harvest. Fruit will come, but remember Who will make it happen. And give thanks to the Lord, the One, the only One, who can lead our kids to flourish in goodness.
Growing goodness in our children is not a mere exercise in parenting them into good behavior, obedience, or even into our particular version of virtue. All goodness, as you may recall, resides in and arises from the person of God and nothing that is not found within Him or does not arise from Him is good. Genuine goodness is the result in our children of communion with God who is resident within them. It is just that simple. We may encourage in our children what we believe is virtuous and obedient behavior and practice but if we fail in shepherding them by our encouragement to enter into sustained communion with God they will remain vulnerable to rejection of true virtue and of the one thing that will actually sustain them with certainty into Heaven. They must be encouraged at every opportunity that to be sustained into the eternal presence of God requires a consummate, intimate, and unqualified surrender of vulnerability to Him. In their taking this posture toward God, no knowledge of God will be denied them throughout their lives as they become compelled by Him personally in their desire to please Him alone.
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