Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In Other Words

"These children are the seeds my days plant, the blooms of the next generations."
~ Ann Voskamp ~
"Holy Experience"

Ann is my favorite writer in the blogosphere! Her metaphors are so strong and beautiful, and this quote is a great example. Though I'm still catching up from Crazy Week, I'm giving myself the speed-writing challenge this morning of meditating on Ann's words.

What comes to mind is a concept I first read about in college called "delayed gratification." If I remember rightly, it's a sign of psychological health if you can get your work done first and then reward yourself by doing something more pleasurable. (Immediate gratification, by contrast, is when you give yourself what you want right now--generally a less healthy approach to life.)

Motherhood--parenthood--is a long exercise in delayed gratification. In a literal way, we plant the seeds of our children, then wait nine months to see them as babies, and another 18 years or more for them to mature. Metaphorically, we plant the seeds of character, of virtue, of love for God and others, in their lives every day. We water those seeds. We pluck out the weeds. We stake up and fertilize the young plants. We shelter them from storms. We prune them when needed.

But often we don't even know, for many years, what kind of a plant we are cultivating! Will this child be a towering oak? That one a lovely, fruitful pear tree? A bold sunflower? A small but hardy wildflower? An ever-bearing strawberry? A vigorous grapevine?

We are rewarded, from time to time, with a growth spurt, with new limbs, buds, even the occasional blooms. These encourage us to continue watering, weeding, pruning and fertilizing in anticipation of the time when the plant will be mature and fulfill its purpose of bearing fruit. What that fruit will be, we don't know, but with the anticipation of a gardener, a farmer, a vinedresser, we lovingly, sacrificially tend the plants we are given, putting off our desires for self-gratification in the present in anticipation of a gratifying harvest in the future.

We hear, from the blooms of previous generations, that it will be worth it. We hear of the joys of grandchildren, of new sons and daughters gained by godly marriages, of seeing the fruit of your labors serving the Lord with all their might, of receiving their love and care in our old age. Surely those blooms we have anticipated will be all the more beautiful because of the years we have waited and worked and prayed to see them! And surely they will bloom the more brilliantly because of our faithful tending.

In the event of a disappointment at harvest time, may we still deserve and receive the gratification of God's words to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant." And may we find, at the harvest, that some of the blossoms, those of the deepest and richest beauty, are our own--the fruits that the Spirit has been nurturing in us as we have delayed gratifying our flesh, and submitted our desires to His own.

8 comments:

Heather said...

Isn't it wonderufl how the Lord us our children to grow us as well. My cildren teach me more lessons, I think, than I actually teach them. What a lovely reminder that regardless of the outcome, He is faithful and will bring about what is best.

Darlene said...

I love your thoughts on the various plants that they may grow to be such as a "wildflower." We hope for tall strong oaks, but sometime the beauty is found in the field where the wild flowers bloom.

Ame said...

i love this ... every bit of it. yes, great parenting requires delayed gratification. sadly, i've seen and experienced the results when parents choose themselves first. i like the way you paralleled the two. very true.

plainandsimple said...

Hi There!

I really enjoyed your post and the whole of your blog...I found you whilst blog surfing! I'm interested to see that you are an Anglican. I'm good old fashioned C of E...at the moment. There aren't many Anglican mummy bloggers out there are there? I'll be back (but not in an Arnie kinda way!lol!)

lori said...

Very nice post. I'll have to check out Ann's blog.

Spunky said...

Have you ever read "A Basket of Flowers". It was written in the 1800's. It is a metaphor to life using flowers as well. Like Anne's writing it is beautiful. My favoritie part of the book was the "rose" and old age. Reminding us that some flowers smell the most fragrant as their outward beauty begins to fade. So it is with the wisdom of the old.

Pete & Mary said...

I love the idea of pruning your children to grow up to be so many different *kinds* of plants, bearing different *kinds* of fruit. That metaphor is so much closer to reality! I love it!

Peter read me a research article about delayed gratification recently - something about how 5 & 6 year olds that can wait next to a bowl full of candy without eating any for the researcher to come back (after promising *better* candy if they wait) tend to have higher grades, stronger relationships and more contentment and success as they grow up.

I hadn't thought about that in relation to parenting, but what better parents who have in mind the mature plant, and are patient for it to grow!!

Anonymous said...

Jeanne?

You wrote it so much better than I ever could:

"And may we find, at the harvest, that some of the blossoms, those of the deepest and richest beauty, are our own--the fruits that the Spirit has been nurturing in us as we have delayed gratifying our flesh, and submitted our desires to His own."

For an exercise in speed-writing, He powerfully ministered to me through your words....

My humble and sincere gratitude...
Ann