If the weather holds up, I’ll spend my afternoon preparing our garden for a summer’s bounty.
If our parenting holds up, our 7-year-old daughter will spend eternity enjoying the grace of God, starting with her first Communion on Sunday.
The more I think about these two events, the more I see the parallels.
First, a word about the garden: We haven’t consistently had a garden in the 10 years we’ve owned our house. At best, we’ve had one every other year. And this is that year.
We like the idea of the garden. It helps the children see how hard work can turn into visible success. It teaches them a lot about biology and patience, too.
Unfortunately, I fail at those last two. I generally cultivate the ground, preparing it for planting. Then it’s up to my much more patient wife to plant it, weed it and pick it. Perhaps it was those hot summer days spent laying straw between rows as a kid, but I’ve never enjoyed gardening much.
I’d hope my work has been better for my youngest daughter’s faith. We’re regular churchgoers, and we try to explain that there’s something for us to hear at every single service. We try to teach them a lot about Christianity and living a God-fearing life.
Unfortunately, I’m more of a “preparing the ground” kind of dad. I’ll make sure they’re going to church. I’ll make sure they make it to all the special meetings for the sacraments. I’ll even do my best to discuss religion with them when it comes up in the course of life.
But if I’m honest with myself, I’m not helping with the weeding and the sowing. There are too many negative influences around us, including the technologies I love so much. There are so many temptations out there. There are so many reasons to wander off the path.
It’s not just about cultivating fertile ground. It’s not just about planting the seeds. No, you have to do whatever you can to protect that sprout of faith. You need to encourage it and help it grow. You shouldn’t overwater it or expose it too much, but you absolutely should let it grow at its own rate.
I’ve met too many older fathers who bemoan they didn’t do enough to share their faith with their children. They went through the motions, but they didn’t instill a love in their children. Convenience and lethargy are too tempting for some young people to continue pursuing their faith. They don’t understand what’s waiting for them.
I worry about that with my own children. When we plant those seeds in the garden, we never know how many will blossom and how many will wither. Yet we have precious few seeds available in our families to grow our faith.
I’ve heard it said children aren’t put in your life to give them your faith, but they’re in your life so you can have faith. Whatever the arrangement, I pray I can make my garden fruitful this year and going forward.