What is your focus when it comes to parenting? Parenting is hard. Long days, short nights, and trying to keep a healthy marriage between dishes, diapers, and hormones. Discipleship is easy to lose sight of when we are in the trenches.
As a mother of four grown children, I understand! We had four children in 39 months, and I remember thinking many times when they were young, “Am I ever going to do anything besides feeding, diapering, cleaning, and then repeating it all over again in a few hours?” Can you relate?
Before I knew it, I turned around and my toddlers had turned into teenagers. Through a series of miracles, my husband and I were able to take our teens to Israel on an educational tour. It forever changed our lives, but it also helped us as parents to renew our focus on teaching and training our teens in the few years we had left with them.
Today, I want to share with you something we learned in Israel that helped us as parents, to remember the goal of parenting.
It was a hot day in August as we toured in Israel. One of the first things you notice in Israel is the olive trees. Olive trees grow everywhere, and they are planted in orchards, but also in unusual places.
According to Israeli law, olive trees represent ownership of the land, so if you own the tree, you own the land. One day our tour guide talked about the different philosophies behind planting olive trees in the land of Israel.
Our guide explained that there are two methods of planting olive trees:
Our guide then stopped and said, “Any questions?”
I asked, “What is the difference between the two trees in the end?”
He paused and said,
“The quality of the fruit.”
I don’t know about you, but I was instantly inspired and convicted at the same time. What kind of trees are being grown in the garden of my home?
Self-examination is never easy, but it helps us to see where we can improve.
Once you determine how your faith was planted and the fruit of that planting, it is important to determine what kind of tree farmer you want to be. What kind of parent do you want to be and where do you want to focus as a parent?
I think we all want to imitate the planting method of the Jewish farmer.
1. Be alive. Our children watch and learn more from what we do, than what we say, so let our actions and words be full of life.
2. Tend those in our nursery. As parents, we oversee the spiritual lives of our children. We teach them, and then we bring in others (Sunday School teachers, VBS teachers, grandparents, etc) to help support our efforts to disciple our children. Are we actively monitoring their progress?
3. Watch and Water: Are we watching for spiritual growth in our children and watering their spiritual lives?
4. Plant: When our adult children leave our homes we want them to launch encouraged and equipped to live their faith. What do we need to do between now and then to reach these goals?
5. Pray: Regardless of the age of our children, we pray for them. Once our adult children are on their own, we continue to have the privilege of praying daily for them. As they begin their own “tree farms”, our words of encouragement and prayers continue to water the next generations.
One day we will all stand before the Master Gardener, and He will examine the quality of our fruit. What have we done with the time He has given us? Have we produced quality fruit? May we all hear, “Well done! Good and faithful servant.”
If you still have children at home, I hope this story will encourage you to focus as a parent on disciplining the next generation! If your children are grown, I hope this will help you as you pray for those parents in your life.
May God bless all your tree farms!