We live in a results-driven culture. When I would do phone interviews, we were trained in behavioral-based models because “past performance predicts future behavior.” So we sought out specific situations, action and results for competencies the employer desired. Our education system leans heavy on results, wanting to test for competency.
It’s not necessarily bad; however it allows little room for character-based assessment. When we become obsessed with results, productivity and evidence, how do we account for things such as honesty, faithfulness, hard-working, empathetic and consideration for others? How are those elements measured and scaled?
If you ask me, this quandary puts us in quite a predicament when it comes to asking what we hope to see from our children. As parents, or even as people who are focused on the growth of souls (young and old), we want to be able to know when we’re doing the right things or when we’ve done a good job. What will we look for in 1, 5 and 15 years from the individuals we’re invested in? What will be the markers?
And how do we not create markers via mass production? How do you honor the beauty of the individual without writing off shortcomings to simply “I yam what I yam”? I “yam” naturally self-centered and controlling, but there’s no reason anyone should expect me to sit and fester in such behavior. I believe we can challenge others to a higher standard in certain ways, but I don’t believe we should seek to make people someone they were not created to be.
So, as I often ask myself, what does that look like?
Jesus gave us a depth of wisdom in the book of Matthew when he talked about a tree. Essentially, you will know a tree is good by its fruit. A good tree puts out good fruit. A bad tree puts out bad fruit. The point isn’t to have the most and best of fruit, but rather use the fruit to gauge what’s really going on in the tree.
What if we imagined each of our children as a small seed. Unless you’re a practicing botanist of sorts, you probably cannot tell exactly the make and model of plant based on the size. Rarely can you ascertain color or size of the tree or plant it will become. So you put the seed in the ground. You water and care for it. You keep the dogs from walking all over the soil. If it doesn’t rain, you hose it down.
It might be an apple tree. Or a mustard tree. Or an olive tree (which I recently learned lives for 500 years!). As nurturers of the tree, our job isn’t to dictate what type of fruit is produced. Our role simply provides as best possible for that tree to produce good fruit. The fruit will be used in many, many ways. Food, juice, seasoning, oil… and really, how the harvest gets put to use probably isn’t much concern for the tree-nurturer either.
I hope, as a parent (and really, as one who wishes to help develop souls), I can learn to water and provide light without judging my little trees on the types of fruit they bear. I pray I don’t see apples and wish for olives, which tend to bring in a bigger price per bushel. And as fruit appears, it’s my goal to keep in mind the health of the fruit, a quality that can only come from a tree filled with vitality.
Ultimately, I must remember that I did not create the seed. That determination came from the start. God asked me to participate by nurturing, not controlling. God doesn’t give us peaches and ask us to convert them to pears. He gives us seedlings and says: Feed. Water. Care. Give it the best shot to a healthy and robust life. We’re not hear to change people, we’re here to grow what God has already planted.