As I dropped my daughter off at first grade this morning, I marveled at the front lawn to the school – dandelions! The weeds were everywhere. As the spring rains have watered the ground over the past weeks, the pernicious little flowers have been taking over lawns and public spaces. The yellow sea in front of the school was particularly striking.
Waiting in the car line, I mentioned to my daughter, “Do you see all those dandelions? That’s why I pull them from our yard – if you don’t, they fill it up and choke out the grass! They might look pretty at first, but they’ll kill everything around them.”
Jesus said a similar thing about weeds in Mark 4:18-19:
Still other [people], like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
It’s so easy for the worries and temptations of this world to steal good things from our heart.
Looking at the sea of dandelions and with my own precious first grader in the car with me, I was struck at how easily our parenting journey can be like soil crowded with weeds and thorns. Parenting invites us to grow good things in our own hearts: a delight in our children, thankfulness for their blessing, deep love and desire for their well being.
But there’s no end to the places and times when weeds are also invited to grow: every glance at the news gives reasons to worry; every glance at social media gives reason to feel inadequate; every glance at our heart gives reason to be ashamed; every glance at the most recent studies, recommendations or advances give reason to be overwhelmed.
We can have dandelions sprouting all throughout our heart, choking out the joy and delight of parenting.
My pastor, preaching on this topic this last Sunday, referred to this as the “untended heart.” It’s a danger and a temptation in every culture and in every context – it was certainly easy enough of a trap for people to fall into during Jesus’ day. But I feel the climate of the 21st century, and our information overload, makes the struggle more complex for parents today.
So how do we tend our parenting hearts? How do we prevent these weeds from choking out the joy of parenting? Here are three quick thoughts – I would love if you could share others!
Process All the Stuff:
Parents need close friends with whom they can process, rejoice and lament. Find community who can help point out where weeds are taking root, and seek to be as transparent and regularly honest with them as possible. A close community can act as first alert systems for weeds.
Feed the Good Stuff:
Colossians 3:2 invites us to, “Let heaven fill your thoughts.” In the same way, Hebrews 12:1 says we are to, “Fix our eyes on Jesus.” Through prayer, regular Christ-centered community and Bible reading, we can water the joy and freedom found through the gospel and prevent the weeds from growing. A thicker, healthier lawn will prevent the weeds.
Confess and Regulate the Bad Stuff:
There are two categories here: the sinful elements of our heart, which need to be confessed, and the information overload of the 21st century, which needs to be regulated. In your processing and prayer, don’t neglect either of these practices. We can be tending our parenting hearts by weeding out of our lives sin and fearfulness through confession and regulation.