I’m a terrible gardener. If you garden, I just don’t understand you. You’re probably a well-balanced person full of self-discipline and good old-fashioned gumption. You look at a patch of dirt and see what beautiful plants could be growing there. I look at it and think about how much work it would take. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
My wife and I have tried gardening. We head into each spring with grand plans of a vegetable garden teeming with cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelons, and bell peppers. This was the first spring in our new house, so we picked out a plot, tilled, and planted all the vegetables we had spent all winter dreaming about.
As happens every year, our dreams were bigger than our efforts. We didn’t add any fertilizer or new soil so the grass just got chopped up in the garden when I tilled the soil. We didn’t take the time to weed thoroughly before we planted. So up came the weeds and choked out all the vegetables. It didn’t help that our garden is planted right next to a cornfield where there were certainly herbicides and pesticides being applied. Our garden failed.
The family is a garden
In the same way that our garden failed, I see a lot of families in the same boat. As a working dad I think a lot about how my family is doing. I’m fortunate enough for my wife to be able to stay home with our kids while I head out every day to the office. I love providing for my family. It’s a joy to be able to do that for them. I’m good at what I do, and it’s a privilege. But my role in the family doesn’t stop at earning money. In fact, providing money is less important than providing myself.
To a point we can survive with less money. Many families do. What will starve my family faster than eating Ramen every day is being absent from them physically and mentally.What will starve my family faster than eating Ramen every day is being absent from them physically and mentally. Click To Tweet
I want to be careful here. I’m not suggesting that parents who bust their humps supporting their families aren’t doing what is right. I’m only saying that with whatever margin I have after my family’s needs are met, what is left of me to give to them from myself? Do I come home and dive into a hobby and avoid them? Do I miss out on organic family moments because I’m buried in my phone? My family is a garden, and it’s my responsibility to tend it.
I’m starting a series on cultivating a fruitful family life. I am focusing on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and what it means as a working dad to grow each of these in our families.
Here are a few things I’m going to keep in mind in the coming weeks, and you should too.
Rule #1—I am not the Owner
I’m a hired hand in charge of a garden that’s not my own. My family is an incredible gift to me, and I want to steward it well. I understand it is not my full responsibility. My wife and I share it, but as a father I have a unique perspective on life and a particular responsibility to my family.
Parable of the Talents
Jesus’s Parable of the Talents reminds me what it means to be a steward. In his story found in Matthew 25:14-30, a rich business man went away on a trip and entrusted three servants with talents of gold. One received ten, one received five, and the third received one. Each was free to invest his talents however he saw fit.
When the man returned from his journey and checked in on the investments each steward made with his talents, the first who received ten doubled the investment to twenty. The second steward doubled his five talents to ten. Finally the third, afraid of risking the one talent returned the original investment with no return having buried it in the ground.
It’s not about finances
It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to figure out Jesus wasn’t teaching us about finances. He was teaching us how to invest what God has given us. As a father I am uniquely called to teach my children about the world: how to think through current events, how to recognize and conquer obstacles, how to sacrifice, work, and serve. Again, that’s not to say that mothers don’t also share these responsibilities, but if I abdicate my God-given responsibility as a dad I’m no better than the wicked servant who buried his talent in the ground.
Rule #2—Farming is multiplication not addition
One of my favorite books for my kids is Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson. In it a young mouse named Mortimer is about to eat the last sunflower seed in his stores when he overhears the big people discussing planting seeds. When a seed is put into the soil, watered, and given sunshine, within time a new plant will grow and yield more seeds.
Mortimer is doubtful. Giving up his last seed would be a huge sacrifice, but in the end he trusts the seed will grow. So he plants it, he waters it, and he waits. Day after day Mortimer checks on his seed, and just as he is about to dig it up and eat the seed, he sees a little sprout coming up out of the soil. Just when his hope was failing, Mortimer saw the little sunflower. And it grew and grew until Mortimer had a harvest of new sunflower seeds.
The moral of the story
The moral of this story is obvious, but somehow when it comes to living it out, I still miss the point. I get frustrated when my kids still act like kids (what should I expect, that they act like adults?). When I have to revisit the same lessons and the same teachable moments, I get impatient. I love Mortimer’s story, because it’s my story. When I’ve reached the end of my patience, God shows me what I’m working toward.
All those moments that I spend investing in my wife and kids are scattered seeds. Sure, some will miss the fertile soil and land in the rocks. Weeds will choke out others. But the seeds I plant in the hearts of my children will produce a yield that is exponents and factors greater than the measly sacrifice of the seed. When I give myself to my family and invest in their fruitfulness, they become the beautiful, fragrant garden full of life that God wants.When I give myself to my family and invest in their fruitfulness, they become the beautiful, fragrant garden full of life that God wants. Click To Tweet
What’s coming up?
Let’s spend the next several weeks learning together how to cultivate our marriages and families.
Have you been close to giving up on something with your family? How did you pull through? What are some experiences you’ve had as a parent where you’ve seen the harvest you’ve waited for? Maybe you’re single. What was your experience in how your parents invested in you? Please comment below, and please subscribe to continue getting all the latest posts right to your inbox.