Parenting is a challenge on the very best of days, even for those whose chief aim is just to keep the kids alive for twenty-four hours. Trying to disciple a child at the same time as we try to help them be civilized, clean, helpful, and educated, is often overwhelming. What Christian parent hasn’t daily fretted about the missed prayers or times of deep talk or catechism and Scripture memorization? Missed days turns into weeks because Mom is pregnant and not feeling well and life becomes an hourly act of survival rather than what we always imagined—all the wee ones lined up on the couch listening intently as Dad and Mom share their faith through story and admonition.
And so we fret and clumsily do those things that are on our hearts at the moment. And we end fights and talk about loving each other. We discipline as regularly as we can, making errors daily in under-disciplining or letting the pendulum swing the other way. And we put hymns on while we eat or let the kids fall to sleep listening to an audio CD that we hope penetrates their hearts. And we pray with and for them less regularly that we want and hope they can discern what Pastor is saying or at least learn the tunes to some great old hymns.
We plant the seeds and most days we forget that as farmers in the fields of the Lord, our job then is fairly limited. What is going on under that dirt we’ll never understand. The corn seed lies in the rich blackness of God’s miracle dirt and magic occurs. God doesn’t ask that we sprout the seed or develop the kernels. No, He has that and everything else well under control. We are to be the trusting farmer and plant more seeds and the growing and harvest are His and to His glory.
Recently my three year old boy Cotton asked me—completely out of the blue and relating to nothing we were doing—“Why did Great Grandfather have to die?” This sad event occurred six months earlier and there had been almost no talk of it since (to my knowledge). He went on to inquire about Great Grandfather’s soul in three-year-old language. He knew that death was not a part of the original plan. He knew that there were consequences to living outside of God’s love and He knew that there was a possibility that Great Grandfather was not a godly man.
This question led us into fertile ground where we could talk intimately about God and His economy. We talked about death and the consequences of sin, about the hope that Great Grandfather was changed in his last days (there was evidence) and our eventual reunion.
He seemed satisfied with my answers and went back to his coloring.
All of my children have popped out questions like this seemingly randomly. Often when we are alone in the car together. When life slows down for the ten minute ride to the grocery store. God is working in their hearts. He is sprouting that seed of faith that we have longed for, bringing the eternal questions to their hearts:
“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
We can rely on our God that He will love our children as He has promised to. We can be hopeful in their sanctification, we can trust that our clumsy efforts will be multiplied by the work of the Spirit. We can rest easy that the seeds will be sprouted, the plants grown and the fruit of that miracle will be rich and sustaining for generations to come.