Both my parents grew up on farms, and so as a kid, we spent many holidays with my grandparents who farmed land in West Texas for decades. So what I know about farming I only know second hand, from my parents, shared through stories from their growing up years and the general knowledge they accumulated during that time.
But I have first hand knowledge as a parent. In fact, I’m getting more and more everyday as our kids grow into the teenage years. And while I don’t believe anyone ever really becomes an expert at parenting, we have done it long enough now to pick up some general principles and observations, and it’s striking to me how similar farming is to parenting. Here are three such ways:
1. Farming, and parenting, is about patience.
Farming is about nothing if it’s not about waiting. The farmer plants the seed, and then waits. The farmer looks at the clouds, and then waits. The farmer watches the prices for the crop, and then waits. The crop starts to come up, and again the farmer waits. That’s not to say there’s nothing to do during the time you’re waiting; there certainly is. There’s hard work in the meantime, and yet, you can’t deny that farming is fundamentally about waiting. Farming, in other words, is no life for the impatient.
Neither is parenting. Parenting is alot about waiting. Patience. It’s about sowing the seeds of character, faith, and godliness, and then tending the soul, but ultimately waiting, and praying, that those seeds take hold. It’s about repeating the same life lesson over and over again, and waiting for the Spirit of God to help it take root. All that waiting, and all that patience, can be discouraging. Frustrating. Maddening even. And yet, time is one of God’s greatest tools for spiritual growth. We find, through all this waiting, that our kids are not the only ones being formed up in Jesus’ image – we are too.
2. Farming, and parenting, is not immediately gratifying.
Back to the theme of waiting, a farmer will go months and months without any visible results for his or her work. They’ve put in the sweat equity, they’ve given the labor, they’ve spent the hours, and nothing. The farmer will look to the fields day after day and just see brown. There is almost no immediate gratification for a job well done.
And so it is with parenting. We read the Bible with our children. We have meaningful conversations with them about life and faith. We pray for them, pray again for them, and then pray some more for them. And day after day, week after week, we get nary a “thank you” or even a few words back in response to our questions. At some point as a parent, you inevitably look at the field of your children and wonder if all the work you are doing is actually making a difference.
Now in both farming in parenting, we can bemoan the fact that there aren’t immediate results, or we can accept that fact that both of these “vocations” are fundamentally about faith…
3. Farming, and parenting, is about faith.
I’ve heard my dad say more than once that having grown up on the farm, he cannot imagine someone being a farmer and not being a person of faith. I mean, consider it –
Year after year, you put everything you have in the ground. This is your livelihood. This is the difference between eating and not eating. You put this seed in the ground, and then you consider all the things that might happen in the long, long time between the moment the seed is covered and the harvest.
Insects. Too little rain. Too much rain. Rain at the wrong moment. A single hail storm on the wrong day in the spring can completely wipe you out. And you, as the farmer, have a terrifyingly small amount of control over these factors. You put the seed in the ground, and then you wait. In faith. And the more I think about it, the more this is exactly what parenting is like.
As parents, we have a responsibility to set the conditions of our homes as much as we are able. We are responsible for teaching God’s Word; for modeling prayer; for making conversations of faith normative; to cultivate a love for God’s church. That’s not to mention the general conditions of safety we are responsible to build around our kids. We do all these things, but all we are doing is putting the seed in the ground and waiting. In faith. And when you consider all the things that could potentially happen in these 18-20 years to ruin that harvest it is staggering. Which leads us back to the same conclusion with parenting that we had with farming:
I am more and more baffled that, as hard as parenting is, anyone can do it without being a person of faith.
Oh, but the farmer and the parent both have a good God. A God that knows the seed and the child, and a God that knows the wind and the storms around them both. He is a God that we can trust because He is indeed trustworthy.
So parents, be farmers. Do the long, hard work of parenting in faith trusting the Lord for a harvest.