After months of tilling up the weeds in our awkwardly shaped front yard, we were finally able to plant in our raised garden beds. In my mind I had images of leading the cul-de-sac in the slow food movement, picking kale and herbs fresh out of the front yard, and making meals in which nothing was bought from a grocery store. Needless to say, a few months in I have learned quite a bit about how not to garden. Decompose in peace, you 2 cucumber plants, 2 tomato plants, and countless strawberry plants. Your epitaph reads, “Planted with such good intentions; Led to an untimely death.” Also it seems I am competing with a slow fat squirrel and scary crows for my own food. Who knew the slow food movement was not instant gratification? Sarcasm intended.
By common grace most of the plants are thriving. We have enjoyed yummy kale, we have basil up to our ears and we have watermelons showing great promise now that watermelon and BBQ season is well past. Alas, I still shop at the grocery store and make frozen chicken nuggets, but the garden has been feeding us. And it has been feeding me in some surprising ways, too. As always, the Lord has been using the mundane things around me to remind me of His deep truths.
You see, our pumpkin plant is probably the most promising in the whole garden. I have watched the little fella struggle from a tiny little sprig into a thriving, intrusive plant. It bears the most beautiful orange flowers. They make me smile when I walk outside, and the boys are proud to point out how well the pumpkin plant is doing. The problem is that while it is so healthy-looking, it hasn’t actually born any fruit. No little budding pumpkins are hanging there, waiting for Phin’s fat little fingers to pluck them prematurely. Not a one.
Meanwhile, our eggplant which has been a sickly little exposed stem since we transplanted it is actually growing an embryonic eggplant. Sweet little eggplant wouldn’t feed an elf, but it is fruit nonetheless.
The Lord has been using this to press a theme that has been running through my mind more deeply into my soul. Since I taught a parenting seminar at church last spring, I have been haunted by something that I said. “We don’t want healthy looking children. We want healthy children.”
Just like my pumpkin plant, outward appearances can be deceiving. Flowers blooming left and right can give the false assurance that the plant is thriving. While I am nursing some more struggling plants to health, it is easy for me to look right past the healthy looking ones.
But I don’t want children who have baskets of potential from hundreds of attractive flowers. I want children who indeed are healthy, who bear fruit. I would rather wait 5 years for this plant to produce one tiny little pumpkin than have it seemingly thrive, bearing flowers but never fruit.
I don’t want to be deceived into false comfort or laziness by the appearances of health in my children’s lives. It seems it is much easier to use fear, behavior modification and guilt to produce flowering children. I want to lean into prayer and cultivation, to beg God to make them healthy. When they are healthy, in His time, in His way, they will bear appropriate fruit.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For God sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7