Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."
This morning, as I often do, I went outside to pray through my "lists". And as is often the case, as I prayed I pulled weeds in my flower bed and then in my raised garden beds. As I did I noticed that I had a big problem with my tomato plants. They were falling over.
Most of my plants are in cages, but even the ones that were in cages were falling over, cage and all. Some of my tallest tomato plants only had a 2 ft tall cage that was designed for peppers and eggplants. Now the plants are 4 ft above the cage, bent over the top and lying on the ground.
For the last two months I've watered them, I've fertilized them, I've weeded around them. The plants are full of nice, big, green tomatoes. But now, as the time for fruit picking gets close, I'm afraid all my work is going to be in vain and I'm not going to get any, or at least many, tomatoes from my garden.
I tried to add some stakes and pull the plants upright. But it's pretty hard to do at this stage. In fact, in doing so, I'm afraid that I'm actually doing more damage to the plants.
As I reached my garden, I came to the part of my prayer list where I prayed for my kids. And as I prayed with those bent over tomato plants, I realized that kids and tomato plants are alike. They both need structure and support. And they both need it in place early on.
My kids are young, the oldest is 8, the youngest 3. We do a decent job with things like family devotions, discipline, being intentional about building relationships, etc. But we're not nearly as consistent as I'd like. There can be the temptation to think: I've got plenty of time for those things, or they're young so I can let things go for now. But the problem is, it's hard to instill those things later on. Like my tomato plants, the time to instill these disciplines is now, while they're still young.
At times it may look like there's too much support for the size of the plant. When my plants were only 6 inches tall a 2 foot structure looked big. But I wasn't growing 6 inch plants I was growing 6-8 foot plants that would have nice, fat, juicy fruit growing from its branches. And I needed to have a structure that could support them when they grew to that tall.
The same is true for our kids. As a Christian parent, I need to be instilling in them a Christian worldview and a Biblical understanding of life that will support them not only know, but when they're mature adults. As a Christian parent, if I want my kids to produce the fruit of godliness I need to provide them a structure that will help that fruit to grow, not only now, but 15 years down the road. As a parent, if I want to be able to be a support for my kids during the teen, college and adult years, the time to build that relationship isn't when they're at that point, but now.
Develop a relationship in which communication is open. Let your kids know that they can talk to you about anything; ask you about anything. For now, some of those conversations might seem pointless. Why do I want to talk to my child about THIS at 11pm when they should be sleeping?? Because there will be a day when you will be lying awake at 11pm wishing your child would be talking to you about THAT.
Family devotions are difficult at 4 years old, but they instill in your kids a worldview and a pattern of spiritual discipline that will carry them when they are 24.
Our kids godliness doesn't depend entirely on us, neither does their success as adults. But we can do a lot as parents to encourage it and enable it. So let's build structures into our kids lives when they're young that can support them when they are older. And encourage fruit that brings glory to God and life to them and others.
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."