I have learned so much from gardening–lessons that transfer to life in ways I did not intend.

When I plant seeds, for example, they all look pretty much the same as they rattle out of the packet, but they grow individually rather like children.

Some sprout quickly; others take their time. The majority seem to grow apace, but there’s a reason the seed company tells you on the back of the envelope that they’ll sprout “within 7-12 days.” It’s perfectly normal not to follow the norm. It’s the same with children. To hear young mothers chatting at play dates, you’d think there was a competition with prizes given for the first tooth, first word, and first step. Those whose little sprouts develop early feel excited and proud, while those whose seedlings linger a bit worry whether something is wrong. Likely not. I have not noticed that initial speed of development has any definite effect on the performance of the mature plant…or person.

Time to sprouting can be hastened by advance preparation. I’ve learned that if I soak my seeds for a day or two before planting, they sprout more quickly. I think it’s fair to say that saturating our children with good books and plenty of love and opportunities gives them a great head start in life…but I’ve also seen neglected plants and children bloom beautifully when these benefits are provided later. Again, I’m not convinced that earlier is always better or that precocious plants or people invariably outperform the slow-but-steady growers.

No matter how similar the seeds seem, the plants are unique. Seeds that look exactly alike can produce a rainbow of colored zinnias, and all the zinnias–regardless of size or the color of their petals–enjoy the same treatment. People are the same. We all come to this earth in the same way and from the same Maker, yet we are beautifully unique. The details that sometimes make us feel different–color or culture, size or “where we’re planted”–make each of us more interesting, but none is “better” or “worse.” We all like to be treated the same way, and we all bloom in the sunshine of acceptance and respect.

We all bloom in the sunshine of acceptance and respect. Click To Tweet

Some plants do better for me than others. I grow lovely orchids, for example, and I cannot claim the credit. I set them in our north-facing window and try to remember to water them occasionally…and they bloom every year! This does not mean I am a great gardener. I have a brown thumb when it comes to daisies and geraniums–the kinds of plants that flourish for most folks–and my tomatoes produce reluctantly. I don’t know why. If I did, I’d fix it. Here’s the hard truth: I don’t know why some children flourish easily and others have difficulty, but I suspect that it’s far too simplistic to blame their parenting. I don’t know why some children are well matched with parents who understand just what they need to be happy and other families have an assortment of tastes and temperaments that results in constant challenges, but that doesn’t mean there’s something “wrong” with either the gardener or the plant, the parent or the child. I also know that if most of us knew how to fix our gardening skills or our relationship skills so that everyone flourished all the time, we’d do it.

That’s why it’s important to keep growing, ourselves. To keep stretching for Heaven and sinking our roots into the nourishment of God’s Word, and encouraging our children to do the same.

Children are amazingly understanding and forgiving when they can see how hard we’re trying to grow. Can we do the same for them? Keep forgiving and understanding that they’re trying very hard to grow, and know that they will grow and blossom into what God wills.