Patience is hard for all of us, especially parents. Christina Fox, author of Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why That Matters for Our Parenting, shares her own impatient heart and how remembering how patient the Father is toward her changed how she saw her children’s growth and maturity. Our Father is a patient Gardener as he tends to our hearts. What if we reflected Him in our parenting? It’s a grace to welcome Christina Fox to the farm’s front porch today . . .
When you first have a child, friends and family often share stories of their own parenting experiences. They also give advice about everything from favorite gadgets and toys to the best way to get a baby to sleep through the night.
One piece of advice I heard from multiple parents was, “Enjoy every moment because it goes by so fast.” They likely looked down at my son snug in his car carrier and remembered when their children were small enough to carry around—children who had since grown up and left home.
A Mother’s Impatient Heart
“Soon enough, I found myself passing on the same wisdom once shared with me, having learned the hard way that time does pass all too quickly”
While I listened to their advice, I wasn’t so quick to follow it. I was impatient for my boys to grow. Instead of enjoying the current stage they were in, I looked forward to the next. I kept thinking, “I can’t wait until he sleeps through the night. Then we all can get some sleep too.” “I can’t wait until he can walk on his own, so I don’t have to carry him.” “I can’t wait until he can talk . . . is potty-trained . . . can ride a bike . . . can drive a car.”
Soon enough, I found myself passing on the same wisdom once shared with me, having learned the hard way that time does pass all too quickly.
But my impatience went further than just wanting to push fast-forward on the passage of time. I was also impatient with my children’s unique idiosyncrasies; the way they insisted on things being a certain way; their constant energy and curiosity; their resistance to change. I was also impatient with their behavior. I grew irritated when I had to repeat the same instruction or teach the same lesson. I found myself saying, “How many times do I have to tell you to . . .?” I responded in frustration over normal childish behavior—excessive excitement, mishaps, and general forgetfulness. As a result, one of my most fervent prayers was for patience. (Incidentally, it’s been a prayer I’ve heard my own children pray for me!)
Our Father, A Patient Gardener
Over the years of parenting, I kept coming back to my own impatience, looking at it from different angles and dissecting it. I wanted to be more patient, but it seemed so hard and I started to wonder if maybe I just wasn’t capable of it. As my children grew into the preteen years, the Lord gently reminded me of my own preteen years. Like Dickens’ tale, I revisited my past and saw how the Lord was patient with me throughout my life. I started to see the slow process of sanctification in my life—the starts and stops, the lessons learned and repeated, and how the Lord was longsuffering with me in that process.
One year in homeschooling, my children and I did a study on botany. We did an experiment with seeds, wrapping them in a wet paper towel and placing them in a few different plastic bags. We then placed those bags in various places around the house to see where the seeds thrived most. No surprise, they did not do well when placed at the top of the schoolroom closet! During that year, we studied all kinds of plants, learned how they grew, and observed various plants throughout the growth process.
When we consider all that takes place in the life of a plant—from the seed planted in the ground to the harvest of fruit—it is a long process. The plant’s growth does not happen overnight. There are many days of quiet underground before the first shoot makes an appearance. This infant plant must continue to grow before it is ready to bear fruit. How true this is of our own heart and that of our children!
God is like a patient gardener, tending the garden of our hearts and waiting for the harvest. He tills the soil of our heart. He plants seeds of faith in us and nourishes us with His Word. He watches over us with love and care. He doesn’t rush the process, knowing that our growth takes time. He prunes and trims away what doesn’t belong. He protects us from evil pests that threaten our growth. He doesn’t leave us on our own; He keeps us in the vine through all the storms of life. He finishes what He starts in us and ensures we bear the fruit of righteousness.
Be Patient as Your Father is Patient with You
“As God’s image bearers, we reflect the patience He has for us to our children.”
As God’s image bearers, we reflect the patience He has for us to our children. We are patient at each stage in our child’s development, not expecting more of them than they are capable and not expecting them to master something right away. Just because they are physically capable of picking up their toys, it doesn’t mean they are emotionally or mentally mature enough to know the right timing in doing so or even the best organizational methods to do so. There are tasks we will need to do with them over and over before they are mastered. It also means we don’t respond with anger or sarcasm when they stumble, make a mistake, or forget something they already know.
A person’s brain hasn’t finished developing until they are in their early twenties. This means we can’t expect our children to think, behave, and respond as an adult would until that time. This can be frustrating in the teenage years when our children appear mature on the outside. They may stand a foot taller than we do and look like a young adult, but their brain is still growing and maturing. We can’t be surprised by teens who make impulsive decisions or who lose track of time or who need to be reminded about things. They need patient parents who walk alongside them, teaching—then re-teaching—how to navigate the world.
Like our Father, the patient Gardener, we must patiently wait and watch our children grow and mature.
Christina Fox received her Master’s in counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She is a blogger, writer, and retreat speaker. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and websites, including Ligonier, The Gospel Coalition, and Revive Our Hearts. She serves on the PCA’s National Women’s Ministry Team and is the editor of their ministry blog, enCourage. Christina is author of multiple books including, Like Our Father: How God Parents Us and Why That Matters for Our Parenting.
[ Our humble thanks to Moody Publishers for their partnership in today’s devotion ]