by Tracy Klicka Mackillop
Now and then I pull out an old family photo album and laugh at seeing our kids’ antics when they were little. From their experiments in the kitchen to their elaborate theatrical productions, I love seeing their smiling, giggly faces and remembering their laughter as we homeschooled as a family.
That seems so long ago now. I sometimes miss those busy, boisterous, creative days and the smaller, more easily manageable challenges, but there is a beautiful discovery awaiting every parent when their children reach the young adult years. It’s called growing up—in maturity and wisdom and fruitfulness for the Lord.
The Example of Bamboo
I love the story of the farmer and the Chinese bamboo tree, for it accurately reflects some children in their teen years. When a farmer plants a bamboo tree, though he waters and fertilizes it for a year, he sees absolutely no growth. The second year he cares for it, and he sees…no growth. The third year is the same. Once again, in the fourth year—in spite of faithful watering and fertilizing—there is, alas, no visible growth.
So many parents can relate. We invest in our children’s hearts—giving them the Word of God, praying with and for them, and seeking to bring the gospel into their lives. Then we wait with longing to see spiritual fruit and genuine faith come forth. For many of us, what we see is similar to what
that bamboo farmer sees—a tiny, little stub of a bamboo shoot, certainly not reflective of what we’ve been pouring into our children!
What the bamboo farmer doesn’t see all those years, though, is that the tree has been growing an extensive and powerful root system. Finally, during its fifth year, it will have an incredible growth spurt of as much as three feet a day! In just a few months’ time, that bamboo tree will grow eighty to ninety feet!
I confess that often in parenting my teenage children, I’ve been tempted to have anxiety and fear when a child questioned my authority, methods, or direction. I’ve gotten discouraged when I’ve heard words that clearly were not indicative of faith in their hearts, and I’ve become angry and
frustrated trying to mold my children into obedience and faithfulness. Parenting alone can be especially challenging, and I so miss Chris’s patient, faith-infused input as the spiritual head of our home.
It Is Not the Farmer Who Makes the Bamboo Grow!
God gives us solid wisdom in His Word that He is the one who guides, protects, and works in hearts—mine as well as my children’s!
One very meaningful verse is found in Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Knowing that God is the one at work and that He can be trusted
with the nurturing and shepherding of our children’s souls gives parents great hope.
Does this mean, however, that as parents we just sit back and do nothing during our children’s teen years because God is at work? Never! There is a beautiful balance between our faithfulness and God’s work. Just as in the Christian life we are to seek after God with all our hearts and ground ourselves in His Word that we might grow in godliness, God wants us to be busy as parents, teaching
and training—studying our children; praying with and for them; giving them the wisdom and power of the Scriptures; and listening to their dreams, fears, frustrations, and struggles—all with our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Our young people’s emotions are up and down moment by moment, and they can sway widely in their desires and goals. Some of them have God clearly in their viewfinder, yet still need lots of direction; others seem to be chasing castles in the sky without a thought for their Creator. When we fix our eyes only on our children’s words and behavior, it can be similar to seeing just the little stub of the bamboo tree above ground.
Two Ways of Looking at the Bamboo
Looking at that little bamboo stub year after year, we might be seriously tempted to laugh. Likewise, looking at our children and seeing nothing but a little stub of “Godwardness” may stir up unbelief, hopelessness, or self-condemnation.
Seeing spiritual growth in our children, however, can be just as much of a stumbling block to us as not seeing it. When we see spiritual growth in our children, we may somehow think we are the ones responsible for that fruit. Our response as parents to our children can either be one of pride and false confidence, or of utter despair and condemnation. Neither of these is what the Lord wants for us.
While there is no guarantee that their hearts are growing in the right direction, God may indeed be at work though His power is hidden from us. He wants us to look with eyes of faith. He delights to show Himself strong toward those who pray and depend on Him, diligently seeking Him with all their hearts (II Chronicles 16:9).
After years of crying out to God on behalf of my children, I am seeing strong shoots of faith in their lives. With trust in a great God who loves to see His children grow, we can anticipate His marvelous work of root building in our children that will, by His grace, lead to an explosion of spiritual growth.
This article was originally published in 2011 summer edition of the Virginia Home Educator.
Tracy Klicka MacKillop is the widow of former HSLDA Senior Counsel Chris Klicka and a homeschooling mom of seven (mostly grown) children. A seasoned homeschooler and a gifted writer and speaker, Tracy loves to encourage parents to see God’s greatness, goodness, and grace in their homeschooling journey. Visit her at www.TracyKlicka.com , and be sure to hear her speak at the 2017 Virginia Homeschool Convention
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