13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.9 He who has ears,[a] let him hear. ~ Matt. 13:1-9, ESV
It amazes me how many people I run across who answer “none” as far as spiritual faith goes. I ask the question “do you have any particular spiritual or religious belief?” and their answer is “no”. Even five years ago when I was in my first job out of graduate school I would get answers more akin to “my parents go to such and such church”, “I was raised (insert flavor of church here)”. Now, more often than not I get “none”.
I also speak to people who hold a faith, however they do not teach their children because they want them to make up their own minds regarding spirituality. I want to shout WHAT?!?!? This is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of your child’s life and you are leaving it to chance? I have met parents who are more interested in indoctrinating their children on sports teams than teaching then about Jesus. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?
So, how do we prepare to plant a seed in our children’s hearts?
- Prepare the Gardner: Be in the Word daily. If you are not properly prepared and knowledgeable about what you are planting it will be difficult when it comes to your child. Live your beliefs and let your children know that your personal daily quiet time is important. I know it has been mentioned multiple times before, but seeing mom immersed daily in the Word while I was growing up was a steady comfort through the turmoil.
- Prepare the soil (1): Soil needs to be soft. A child’s heart can harden from absent parents, abuse, neglect, implications or statements related to them not being enough. This could be good enough, smart enough, strong enough etc. A child who knows that they are loved by their parents will have a heart prepared to learn and grow. In my work I teach parents and children about what I call the Target Zone. (Also called the Window of Tolerance in Integrative Parenting by Wesselmann, Schweitzer, and Armstrong). When children are in this Target Zone they are able to learn and grow. When children are out of this target zone is when the stress response is engaged (fight, flight, freeze, faint, funny). Children can go one of two directions. They can become hyper-aroused (hitting, yelling, panicking) or hypo-aroused (shut down, isolating, daydreaming, zoned out). Providing the emotional support for children to be in this Target Zone will allow for their heart and mind to be open to learning.
- Prepare the soil (2): Soil also needs to be fertilized. How do we fertilize a child’s heart? By giving it love, affection and discipline in the correct doses. If you put every option of fertilizer into the soil it will be too much and may rot your plant. Just as too much of a good thing can cause rotten roots, too much of a good thing can also cause a rotten child. Create the balance between “yes” and “no” and always leave room for grace.
- Prepare for the proper time: The timing needs to be right, you can’t plant sunflowers in the winter and expect them to grow. I talked with someone several years ago who told me their parents believed in “Proverbial discipline”. They would be spanked while their parents quoted “Spare the rod spoil the child” and “Beat the child he will not die.” While they remember these moments years later, I’m not sure that it provided an affinity for the scriptures. Remember that scripture is for the edification of others as well. Use bedtime for reading Bible stories, use time in the car for playing Faith-based music. Children are naturally curious, allow them to use that curiosity to learn about the stories in the Bible.
Whatever it is, start today! Tend the gardens of their hearts as a master gardener “And when they are old they will not stray from it”.