Written by Deb del Villar, Director of Communications
In Tennessee where I live, it is time to till up the ground and get ready to plant. In fact, it is a little late for some crops. Throughout the community every year, freshly tilled patches of rich brown dirt show up. The hard soil makes it difficult work, yet well worth it when the dinner plate is filled with scrumptious, tasty vegetables fresh from the garden.
Many of these patches show up right after a light, steady rain. The ground is easier to till when it has been softened by the gently falling rain over time. Rich nutrients are added in conjunction with the needs of the soil to help ensure a bountiful harvest. When the soil is just right, the seeds or seedlings are planted. Then over the next weeks, under the watchful care of the gardener, the plants are tended and nurtured.
Not every crop is planted at the same time or nurtured in the same way. Some crops need much more sunshine, some need more space, and others need lots of watering. The gardener has learned what works best for each one – often through trial and error, while at other times by listening to seasoned gardeners.
The gardener also watches for things that seek to harm or destroy the crop. Have the squash beetles or the tomato cutworms or even the aphids shown up to feast on their favorite vegetable? Ever diligent the gardener does what he can to protect his plants proactively and reactively, all with the goal of a bountiful harvest.
There are so many principles that can be gleaned from gardening and applied to intentionally discipling our grandchildren.
Be mindful of their unique needs
The first one is that it is not helpful to rain down God’s Truth in a deluge if the ground – the grandchild’s heart – is not soft. Just as a heavy spring rain runs off the hard soil, so may God’s Word. Our strong desire to share the gospel with those we love can cause us to come across as a pounding rain to an unreceptive heart. May I suggest starting as a steady, light rain, allowing your love, your grace-filled words, and your actions to slowly but surely soften the heart.
May you build a strong relationship with each grandchild, meeting their needs and responding to them as unique gifts from God. Think back to the seeds and seedlings in the garden. Each has its unique planting, watering, and sunshine needs. While some need full sun, others like partial sun. Some take lots of work. Potatoes require lots of mounding up of the soil around and above them where they can be tucked in deep in the depths of the ground.
Others are easy to grow. I remember one of our first years that we tried a garden. Being very new and inexperienced, we thought 3 rows of zucchini would give us enough to make zucchini bread and muffins to last us through the winter. Can you guess what happened? We had enough zucchini to last our entire lifetimes, our grandchildren’s, and those yet to be born.
Take a moment and think of each of your grandchildren. What do they need from you? Are they open and ready to accept God’s Word? Do they still need to have their hearts softened? Is it easy or hard to interact with them? Above all, do not quit. Remember it is the harvest that is the goal – seeing each grandchild come to faith and maturity in Christ.
This led me to think also how do I intentionally teach my grandchildren. Do I come across with a heavy downpour of Christianese or self-righteousness? Do I faithfully, authentically, and with vulnerability share my faith journey? Just as it is important to plant my garden step by step so it is with sharing my faith in age-appropriate ways and words. It is a process of building on each step as the grandchild is ready. Plant God’s Word using steady, receptive, continual teaching through your actions and words.
Persevere through prayer
Next, persevere. Gardening is hard work. So is being an intentional Christian grandparent. Be available to nurture, taking advantage of those times where you can speak truth with grace. Be sure to watch out for those pests – those dangers – that come into your grandchild’s life that are seeking to harm or destroy. Help them to learn to be diligent too and pick them out. My grandchildren love to help in the garden. They are usually the first ones to notice the aphids and squash beetles.
Do not neglect the importance of prayer as the starting point. It is a great softening tool for both you and your grandchild. This is spiritual work so rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as the harvest in the garden is due to the rain and sunshine provided by God, our wonderful Creator, so will be the harvest of your grandchildren’s souls.
As grandparents, our heart is burdened for our children and grandchildren. God knows them even better than we do. He will help you to know what to do. Prayer will also help you persevere as you pray God’s promises for your grandchildren trusting and believing them by faith. If you have not seen a harvest yet do not quit, there is always next season. Galatians 6:9 serves as a reminder for us: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
May God bless your efforts. May you witness a harvest of grandchildren who are following the Lord. May they become the next planters of truth to your grandchildren’s grandchildren.