Little Seeds, Deep Roots, Big Trees

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by Megan Johnson

When I was in Kindergarten, I came home with a tiny sapling, a tree, to be planted in our yard, because it was Arbor Day after all. I was thrilled about the little life I had been entrusted with – and then the teenage boy mowing the lawn ran over it and my 5 year old heart was run over too. Ah, but it was a good lesson:

We run over what we’re not looking for.

We run over what we don’t see as important.

I survived. The tree did not.

I tell you this because I’ve been convinced lately that our kids are like seeds, saplings, and eventually full grown oak trees. I’m amazed at how fragile these acorns are that eventually sprout into a tiny shoot of green that I would probably think was a weed, (or my husband would run over with the lawn mower,) because they become something incredibly strong, sturdy, life producing, and shade giving.

It’s amazing that any of these little seeds, acorns, shoots, and saplings survive. The soil conditions have to be just right. They have to survive long enough not to be eaten. And they can’t be run over by the lawn mower!

When you see a seed or sapling, it’s difficult to imagine the oak that it will become given the right conditions.

This changes the way I think about parenting. An oak tree takes a long time to mature and grow, but the payoff is enormous compared to the puny Bradford Pear tree that shoots up in significantly less time. It’s all about the work in soil conditions and the waiting I want to put in. Do I want to do ground work – hidden work – in my kids? Do I long to cultivate their roots and provide soil for them to grow deep in? Do I want to do the shovel work – the hard, unnoticed, heart work – that may look to outsiders like I’m not doing anything because my work is not outward, quick fruit producing, or behavior modifying? It is deep, slow, root cultivating heart work. It is that work that says, I’m going to work on your heart today and help us get to the root of why you don’t want to accept instruction instead of finishing the math lesson that I could check off and say “done! We did it! We’re on track!” I don’t get to say that often – not if I’m really following the Lord in the work He is doing in my children that’s slow and hidden and usually not the way I, in my feeble knowledge and wisdom, would do it.

Do I trust Him to complete the work He’s started in them by placing them in a covenant family of faith? Do I trust that He is working in me, and in them, as I parent, discipline, listen with humility, and repent? The math lesson is far less important that the heart that needs to be seen, and heard, and walked alongside in repentance and faith.

It makes me think about my story of the tiny sapling being run over by the mower pushed by the unsuspecting teenager. How often do I run over saplings because I’m only interested in the trees that produce fruit? Am I only interested in the trees that are sturdy and good for climbing, with strong roots, that we admire? You have to admit, we don’t admire much about a seed. Rarely does anyone say, “WOW, look at that!” when they see an acorn or seed. And yet, there’s NO oak tree without it.

These days are important. The soil our kids grow in is important. We want to grow trees, not shrubs.

Jeremiah 17:5-9 poignantly says this:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5-9

I want to show my children what it looks like not to make their flesh their strength but to send their roots out to the streams; so that when they do begin to bear fruit, their leaves will remain green, even in a season of drought. This doesn’t mean not to push your kids in sports or activities they are skilled at and love. It doesn’t mean you always have the answer for the “why” or their pain as they navigate life and friendships. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t mess up – because you will; every day. (And GOD will use that.) I think it DOES mean that we point them to the source of life, of good, and of refreshment over and over and over again. And not just when they ask or we think they are watching. It starts where no one sees it – in our own hearts; in our moments of choosing between trusting the Lord or making our flesh, capabilities, control, or recognition our strength.

There is a slow, long, good work taking place in YOUR heart AND your kids’ hearts. God is using you with your kids to cultivate that soil – not running them over because they are saplings and not yet fruit producing – but cherishing the moments of love, correction, discipline, repentance, and glimpses of God’s grace and work – in you and them!

For whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:7-9

Do you feel desperate? That’s good. We need to be desperate for God to work in us and our kids because we would never lead them to Jesus in our own strength and ability. God consistently asks us to do things we truly CANNOT do – and one of those things – maybe the most important – is growing these oak trees we call children.

Here’s to committing to seeing our kids; to repenting alongside them; to committing to the long, slow, deeper work of Jesus in our hearts and our kids’ hearts.

Here are some resources Ryan and I love:

The Gospel-Centered Parent by Rose Marie Miller

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elise Fitzpatrick

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