About the time we wrap up the school year, my thoughts turn to my garden. My garden provides a quiet place for work and contemplation, and as is my wont, my musings rarely stray far from my life as a teacher. Cultivating in my students a love for learning and a desire to love God and neighbor is a lot like cultivating a garden.
God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to tend it, to cultivate it. The garden was a place of education for Adam. He discovered how to water it, how each plant grew, how to make it grow and produce. At the same time Adam was cultivating the Garden, he was being cultivated by the process. There is a lot to be learned from getting our hands in the dirt.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned over my years in the garden . . . and in the classroom:
Weed often and weed deep. A weed is a plant that will take over its surroundings if left on its own. Sin will devour thoroughly if not “nipped in the bud.” It is important for children to recognize and deal with sin immediately and not make excuses for it. This means we have to help them learn to do this, to have our hands in the dirt with them. Remember, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Prov. 29:15)
Know what you have planted so you know what shouldn’t be there. The leaves of rattlesnake weed look very much like those of salvia. I might not be able to recognize every weed that grows, but I know what I’ve planted, and I’ve learned what it looks like so I know what shouldn’t be there. We have to be intentional about what we plant and not rely on the wind to blow in any old weed. Teach your children truth so they recognize something that is not truth. “The father shall make known Your truth to the children.” (Is. 38: 19)
Fertilize and water. Fertilizing strengthens the plant so that it can support the fruit or flower. We often think our children can flourish without spiritual nourishment. If “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” start there and cultivate that. Use the Scriptures, the creeds, fellowship, good books, and wholesome activities to help cultivate truth, beauty, and goodness in your children. Children are eternal beings, our brothers and sisters in the faith. Feed them. “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.” (I Tim. 4:6)
Work hard and allow for patient growth. If you are a parent of young children, you don’t get the luxury of doing your own thing - - yet. You have to be in the work with your children. What children do when they are young is simply practicing for when they are grown, so teach them to be steadily attentive to the task at hand till it is complete. “All hard work brings a profit.” (Prov. 14:23)
So, this summer, go ahead and get your hands dirty. You might just see some beautiful growth!