First of all, let me apologize for not having published this yesterday as I said that I would. I spent most of Wednesday in the doctor’s office, only to find out that I have acute bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection, a sinus infection, bronchial spasms…need I go on? I received a breathing treatment in his office, and left with 4 different prescriptions, each of which has a spectrum of side effects. Even though all that I needed to do to publish this post yesterday was to hit the “publish” button, I didn’t have the energy to make it over to my computer. I know how pathetic that sounds…
However, I raised myself out of my sick bed this morning – mostly to see my husband off for a week-long trip. And to hit “publish” on this article!
So, back to the issue of cultivating your child’s heart!
I love gardening. It is my refuge from the pressing city life and my way to create a little rural in my urban existance. Watching the life in the plant grow from seeds into life-giving produce is energizing and motivating. Even in the dead of winter, I am scheming and planning on the next season’s harvest.
I guess I took a little of that perspective into parenting. As my eldest and I began to walk through the process of character development and obedience, I saw her heart as a garden into which I was to plant seeds of good character. I attempted to win the race of good seeds planted versus the creeping weed seeds taking over the garden of her heart.
Until I read in the Bible Luke 8, the parable of the sower. In this parable, Jesus is talking to his disciples about the way the Word of God, or the seed of the sower, is received by various people in creation.
Some receive the seed on ground that is rocky and hard, and it is picked away by the birds or is trampled on before it has a chance to take root.
Some receive the seed on rocky soil which allowed it to grow quickly, but not develop deep roots; therefore, it eventually withers for lack of water.
Some receive the seed among a thicket of thorns, which proceed to choke out the growth of the plant.
Or, in the last scenario, the sower throws his seed on good soil which allows his seed to grow and produce a harvest one hundred times as great.
In my last post, I spoke about how the verses in Luke that describe this outcoming of seed sowing is possible because the seeds fell on soil with “an honest and good heart.” This soil was receptive to God’s Word before the life-changing seed of the gospel found root.
That is our goal for parenting…not seed sowing, but ground preparation.
The parable isn’t about good seed (because ALL of the seed came from the sower and was good), but about good soil.
A heart must be prepared to receive the gospel in such a way that the receiver will hold fast to God’s Word. Soil that is able to produce a bountiful crop is not raw, untouched land – it has been prepared ahead of time to receive the seed.
Then the question becomes: How do we prepare the soil of a human heart?
Before I go through my suggested ways of how to prepare the soil of your kids’ heart, let me first remind you that these kids you’re working with are His kids and He loves them even more than you do. Their hearts will not be prepared because of your perfection, striving, or fretting. The following suggestions are not formulas, or fail-safe methods…they are just actions that we’ve found helpful to accomplishing this goal.
Speak the Language of God’s Word to your kids.
II Timothy 3:16 “Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, correcting, training, rebuking so that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work.”
I teach my kids the Word of God.
We memorize scripture.
We encourage each other to read our Bibles every day.
We read the Bible together during school.
One of their school subjects is Character where they interact with Biblical concepts and teachings.
I want to get them familiar with the life of the Bible, the kinds of things God/Jesus says, and the cadence of the words used so that they can read and understand it on their own.
Model the behaviors of the Christian life.
We invite and host internationals/missionaries in our home so that we can model service and hospitality, as well as position our kids to hear the stories of what God is doing in various places on earth and the hearts of various people.
We attend some form of church as often as possible. For a while, that was a church that we were planting, then it became a gathering in our home, and now it is attending a local congregation. Whatever the form, discuss with and model the importance of being connected with the larger body of Christ.
We teach them why they are to honor their parents. I believe there are 3 primary reasons: God commands it; we as parents have been where they’re going and our wisdom can help guide them; and they’re to practice hearing God’s voice by listening closely to what we have to say.
Model the Reality of God
Live in the power of God.
Pray for and with your kids.
Minister to others with your kids present.
Tell them ways in which you saw God move, or ways in which scripture spoke to you that day. Have a running dialogue with your kids about how God is moving in your life.
The goal of all of this is so that accepting the message of the gospel will be a natural step forward instead of a radical course correction. I want to make God a reality to my kids, practicing His presence and making a relationship with Him inviting.
As my kids have grown up and grapple with the difficult questions of faith, I get to engage in conversations with them about their questions – and I get to see the results of having spent years working with the soil of their hearts. So rewarding…