This piece first appeared on http://www.rootedministry.com
Three years ago, my husband and I planted a cluster of trees beside our house. My favorite was a weeping willow. I’ve always loved willows with their graceful branches that blow gently in the breeze. They seem peaceful and strong, and I thought it would look lovely beside the lake on which we live.
One morning I stepped outside to find that our willow had been attacked around the base of its trunk, probably by a deer since our neighborhood is overrun with them. It’s not enough that they scrape their antlers against our hardwoods, but they also eat our holly bushes, rose bushes, and tomato plants, and now they’d attacked my willow. I called a local tree expert and asked him what I could do to save my little tree.
“It wasn’t a deer,” he said. “It was a beaver. It’s called girdling, and your tree will most certainly die.”
The beaver had removed a circle of bark from around the tree trunk, leaving the underneath wood exposed. According to my source, the willow was now destined to die a slow death at which time the beaver would return to collect its remains.
Now I was mad, but I wasn’t going to give up. I determined to find a way to repair the damage and save my tree. Scanning a local plant nursery’s shelves for remedies, I found a can of tree repair sealant. I brought it home and went to work.
And then I waited. That pitiful tree shrunk to half its size and its leaves turned brown and crispy. It looked as if it would surely die. We almost gave up and cut it down, but we decided to wait until the next spring just in case there was any life left deep within.
And then spring returned, and with it came my willow. I looked out the window one warm day in March and saw a million tiny green leaves covering my tree. A tiny sliver of bark had grown back, bridging the damaged gap. The new bark couldn’t have been more than one inch wide, but it was thick enough to bring nourishment from the roots to the entire tree, returning it to life.
I was thrilled. My tree had survived. Overcoming its enemy’s attack, it had found a way to not only live, but to thrive.
One day I realized that my trusting God with the spirituality of my children is a lot like this story of the tiny willow. God gives us these children as gifts and we are responsible for introducing the gospel to them. We plant seeds of truth in our children and have faith that they will thrive spiritually. We prayerfully desire that they will one day, on their own, choose Jesus. And although I might like to I cannot manufacture resilient faith in myself or in my kids. But praise God the Gospel means that I don’t have to. I fail, He wins. I trust, He takes over. I give, He provides.
Although the Word of God gives us wonderful directives as parents, it gives no guarantees regarding our children’s spiritual choices. One parent said to me, “I just wish my 13-year-old son would have a devotion time!” We want evidence that our children are maturing spiritually. But as they grow up physically, a spiritual development doesn’t always seem to follow. Sometimes they make poor life choices and we battle to believe that God is at work in them.
But we have to remember that the Bible promises that all things work together for good and to the glory of God. So we introduce the truth, cultivate it in their lives, and wait, watch, and pray. We trust.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:13,14
Just as I had passionately planted the tiny weeping willow tree and taken care of it as best I could, there was no way for me to completely protect it from attack. There were no guarantees that my little fledgling tree would thrive. I did everything I could to nurture it, but ultimately, I was not in control. Similarly, spiritual growth in the lives of my children is ultimately between them and God, and I am called to trust that His ways are best.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)
The most difficult thing for me is fear amid the waiting. I’ve talked to parents who fear their children will make dangerous choices. They worry about alcohol, drugs, and even their kids hurting themselves or someone else. The fear is real, and unfortunately in our world the dangers of the evil one are also real.
Drawing on the love of God, the power of God, and the sovereignty of God enables me to walk by faith and trust in Him. I have to rest, trusting that there is a wonderful plan for my children. My ideas and desires are so finite, so small, and so insignificant when compared to the magnificent passion and ultimate power of our Heavenly Father. Seeing God through this lens helps me to wait on His presence in my kids’ lives and to more fully trust in His plans for them.
With every passing year, our children are more and more exposed to the world, its hardships, and all the things that taint an accurate picture of who God is and what their relationship with Him can be. The lies of the enemy whisper, “Your tree will most certainly die.” But when we teach them gospel truths in order to cultivate deep spiritual roots, then God willing, even after they’ve been exposed to the brokenness of the world, new life in Christ will burst forth.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. (Psalm 92:12-15)