“And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Right up there with out-of-tune pianos and flannelgraphs, the parable of the sower was a familiar part of my church upbringing. Certainly not something I thought would radically alter my mothering. But early one bleary-eyed morning while trying to squeeze in some Bible reading before the appearing of my cherubs (or wee-beasties, depending on whether they let me sleep the night before), something struck me in those verses.
As a professional mother, I already knew that I was the primary sower of good seed into my children’s hearts and that this call to spread gospel truth applied to them as much as the teacher down the street or the naked heathen across the sea. But the question that stopped me that morning was this:
If the condition of the soil was a key factor in whether the seed became fruitful, what were all the other components of my mothering doing to the soil of their hearts?
As I considered this passage through maternal eyes, I pictured the precious seed of the gospel that could save, guide and bless my little ones, hitting hardened soil and bouncing off.
It is a matter of eternal importance that our precious ones receive and internalize life-giving truth. We can’t risk the soil of their hearts being hardened by our parenting.
When I began to evaluate each look I gave, every deed I did, every word I spoke and every tone I used in light of what it was doing to the receptivity of their hearts, every seemingly unimportant part of my day was infused with incredible significance.
Because, let’s face it – motherhood isn’t just made up of Bible picture books and memory verses. Every other thing we do in our days with our children creates the environment in which these precious seeds are sown. Are those things going to having a softening or a hardening effect? Tilling or Packing? Fertilizing or Stripping?
I was thankful for this soil imagery because it inspired me to cooperate more readily with the Holy Spirit in the development of self-control in my life. I now understood what was at stake in all the little moments that made up my early mothering days.
I began to note and prayerfully try to avoid the things that harden. Things like:
- Harsh Words
- Angry Looks
- Lack of sensitivity
- Excessive Busyness
- Embarrassing & shaming
- Nagging & Rushing
- Dismissiveness & unavailability
- Unnecessary sternness
- Not seeking their forgiveness when I wronged them
- Investing too much time outside of my family
- Blaming my sinful response on their behavior
- Blaming something on them that really stemmed from my negligence
As big and serious as that list was, it didn’t seem as daunting once I realized that the list of tilling and softening activities is way bigger and limited only by our imaginations. Really, any little thing could make this list if done in gentleness, love and with the aim of accomplishing God’s grand purpose for parenting – the modelling of God’s grace to humanity by how we love, care for and incarnate God’s grace to our children.
Here are some of the specific things I have found to have a tilling or softening effect in my home:
- Speaking their names and making requests with a gentle tongue.
- Speaking their love language even if it’s not a comfortable dialect for me.
- Taking any opportunity to scratch backs or play with hair.
- Using affectionate nicknames and writing silly love songs for them.
- Giving random touches, kisses, gifts or dates.
- Putting our love, encouragement and approval in writing.
- Being available and attentive when they are in the mood to talk.
- Saying “yes” as often as possible.
- Letting them see evidence of a strong and cultivated marriage.
- Whispering tender words of blessing at bedtime.
- Extending mercy when their hearts need it more than justice.
- Praising them in front of others.
- Offering gracious responses to a mistake or accident.
- Admitting my wrong and immediately seeking their forgiveness.
- Waking extra-sleepy kids with cuddles, tea or breakfast in bed.
- Being eager and willing to serve their friends.
- Warming up their towel after a bath or shower.
- Celebrating Christ-like character more than accomplishments.
- Identifying with their struggles and failures with stories of my own.
- Pursuing them, even when they are prickly, and I don’t feel like it.
These may not seem like significant things, but they are sturdy and effective tools for tilling the spiritual soil of our kids’ hearts, making them more inclined to receive the life-giving truth of God that will produce beauty and blessing in their lives.
So take heart, my younger soil sister. In the early years with young children, you may not feel like you accomplish much that is tangible:
But if you kept the soil soft, it was a good day.