Tuesday, June 11, 2013

On Tomatoes and Children

This morning I woke up thinking about children. In the Bible, children are sometimes likened to tender young plants, and I thought of the tiny tomato plants we recently potted. Not all of them stood up straight at first; they needed to be planted into good soil, gently watered, and trained with a gentle and patient hand. With that kind of care, their little stems gained strength, their leaves stretched toward heaven, their roots went deeper into nourishing soil, and they've grown into strong plants and are even beginning to bear fruit.

I thought about how silly it would have been to yell at those tiny plants for being so flimsy, or to impatiently stick them into the soil, or worse, toss them onto the soil and throw up our hands hopelessly, saying these plants will never amount to anything. That's ridiculous. No one would do that with a tiny tomato seedling. Yet people do that with their children.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. {Ephesians 6:4}

What does it mean to "bring them up"? The Greek word is /ektrephō/, which means "to rear up to maturity, that is, (generally) to cherish or train: - bring up, nourish". Cherish. Train. Nourish. These speak of meeting needs, and children have a lot of needs.

We must cherish them to meet their emotional needs.

We must train them to meet their spiritual needs.

We must nourish them to meet their physical needs.

How can children grow up right, if their needs are not met? How can they learn to be kind to others, if they are not treated with kindness as they grow? How can they learn to tolerate others' shortcomings, if they are not allowed the the same grace? How can they learn to do a job well, if they are never given opportunities to try, to fail in a safe environment, to build confidence, and then to succeed?

When parents provide the secure, loving, nourishing environment that little ones need, they can grow up to maturity and produce the good fruit that we long to see.