Unfortunately, this hospital stay coincided with the garden harvest. The beans, squash, and cucumbers had already begun coming in. While we were away that week, those vegetables continued to grow. When we got home, the beans were a lost cause--thick, tough, stringy and totally inedible. The squash looked like a brass band had marched through, discarding their bright yellow tubas beneath the large green leaves, and the cucumbers as if a blimp had flown over in labor and dropped a litter. If we expected the plants to continue to produce, I had to pull those huge gourds. That first morning home I picked and dumped 8 buckets full.
Gardens are taskmasters. They don’t stop when it doesn’t suit your schedule. They don’t wait till you have a free moment. You must reap the harvest when it is ready or you lose it. Every morning in late May and early June I go out to see what the day holds for me. Will I be putting up beans or corn or tomatoes? Will we have okra for supper or do I need to pickle it? Are the jalapenos ready for this year’s salsa? Are the bell peppers big enough to stuff or do I need to chop some for the freezer? Do I need to make pesto before the basil completely seeds out?
And then you look for other problems. Has blight struck the tomatoes? Do the vining plants have a fungus? Have the monarch butterflies laid their progeny on the parsley plants? Have the cutworms attacked the peppers? Has the ground developed a bacteria that is killing off half the garden almost overnight? Do things just need watering?
Childrearing can be the same way. Children don’t stop growing until it suits your schedule. They don’t wait till you have a free moment. You must reap the harvest when it is ready or you lose it.
God expects you to carefully watch those small plants. He expects you to check for problems before they kill the plants, and nip them in the bud. It is perfectly normal for a toddler to be self-centered, but somewhere along the way you must teach him consideration for others. Are you watching for ways to overcome his innate selfishness and teach him to share? Do you have a plan to teach him generosity? It won’t happen by itself--you have to do it.
Are you examining your children every day for those little diseases—stubbornness, a hot temper, whining, disrespect, or the other side of the “leaf”—inordinate shyness, self-deprecation, pessimism. God expects you to look for problems from the beginning and try to fix them so your child will grow into a happy, well-adjusted adult, able to serve Him without the baggage of character flaws that should have been caught when he was very small. Parents who ignore these things, thinking they will somehow go away when he grows up, are failing in their duties as gardeners of God’s young souls. Those things will not disappear on their own any more than nematodes and mole crickets will.
He also expects you to make clear-eyed judgments. He may be your precious little cutie-pie, but you need to take off your tinted glasses and take a good look at him. If you ignore his problems because you are too smitten to see them, you do not love your child as much as you claim. Whoever spares the rod, hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him, Prov 13:24. When I ignore the blight in my garden, it’s because saving the garden isn’t important to me.
Have you and your spouse ever just sat and watched your children play? Have you ever given any thought at all to the things you might need to correct in them? If your schedule is too busy for that, then you are too busy. Period. Your children will keep right on growing, and without your attentive care they may rot on the vine.
You are a steward of God’s garden. The most important thing you can do today is take care of it.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table… Psalms 128:3.