I went over my usual list of expectations as we sat down at the picnic tables under the park shelter. Play nicely. Stay where I can see you. Don't leave this area. Expecting everyone to scatter in different directions immediately, I turned toward the moms I was with as my littlest suddenly chimed in, "And look for the kids with their heads down, right mommy? Because that means they need a fwend to play wif."
"That's right, sweet girl," I sputtered out as I tried to hold back the tears that seemed to flow straight from my mama heart. Motherhood can seem like a never-ending, monotonous toiling of sowing seeds into little souls. The days as they say, can feel so long and the nights can be filled with discouragement of all the should'ves and could'ves. I began to wonder why this exchange had created such a stir in me, and I realized it was because those words showed that my three-year-old, the "threenager" as we affectionately call her, understood that seeking out the lonely is just as important as staying within the bounds mom set. This was coming from the child, who for that season, was the one I was struggling with the most, wondering daily if anything I said or did in training her even mattered. This child had grasped one of our family's highest held values, pay close attention to those around you and meet their needs. And for a mama who wearily laid her head down each night, questioning if I was doing anything right to train and disciple her, it was a reminder of what I already knew–He is the one who grows the seeds I faithfully sow.
So often, we think if we can just control the external behaviors of these little lives entrusted into our care, we can finally rest well each night. But it doesn't take one long to realize that if you fetter your hope to your child's performance, you might never sleep. The reality is that our children are willful and sin-filled, just as we are. And to hold our breath for them to finally "act right" will keep us breathless and exhausted. Instead, we are to grab a till and painstakingly thrust it into the hard terrain of our children's heart, slowly breaking through the crusted earth below. Over and over again, we speak seeds of the gospel. Love one another. Be kind. Forgive. Confess. Repent. Now, do it once more. Again. And again. Many days it can feel like we haven't even broken ground as disobedience abounds, sibling squabbles ensue, and hearts run cold.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the church at Galatia to, "not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9 NIV). The word "weary" means, "to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted."1 How many times in a given day, sometimes within a given hour, do I find myself completely depleted and worn out when it comes to the good work of tilling the soil of my children's hearts for the seeds God desires to plant within them? How many times do I give up, take the path of least resistance, choose to yell instead of teach? How many ways do I lay down the tools God has set before me for the task at hand and sit idly by in a heap of disappointment while still expecting growth to come from underneath?
To see the harvest in our children's lives requires a consistency that most of us in our instant gratification generation aren't willing to entertain. It is in the everyday, unseen, daily moments in which we model and discuss all that which we desire to one day see God grow in our kids. The thing I realized that day was that my little one expressed one of our family's dearly held expectations not because I had finally figured out the formula for modifying her wanton behavior or had gotten her to memorize a list of rules, but because day in and day out, I had planted tiny seeds of how Jesus calls us to treat others. It had been scattered in a thousand different ways–conversations in the car as we ran to and from activities, through serving local refugees and the homeless in our community, overheard discussions during homeschool history about how humanity has long mistreated one another, or asking her to look people in the eyes. It was never one single act or discussion, but all these little things adding up over time to that one moment at a park. It was teaching her to pay attention to others, something I myself was learning right alongside her.
Jesus said His kingdom was made from the tiniest of seeds. Little deposits that when they bloomed would burst forth, teeming with life. He said faith was the same. Humble beginnings that once grown could shift mountains. Like the kingdom and faith, motherhood is a lesson in learning the power of the seemingly insignificant.
Our kids are quick to pick up our expectations and boundaries as we lay them before them. We may think they aren't hearing a word we say, but as the old adage goes, so much more is caught than taught. For the weary mama who feels like she can't pick up the plow one more day and sow the seeds of goodness into her children's hearts, know that the Gardener sees all the little ways you do and He will produce a harvest if you don't give up. Just don't give up, mama.