Taming the Wilderness

My back porch is what I have affectionately termed a “plant hospice.”  Every Spring, I bring beautiful plants home and gently ease them to their deaths.  I do it lovingly and tenderly, but inevitably, by August, they have all gone to the great nursery in the sky. All that to say, horticulture is not my thing.

My complete lack of landscaping know-how did not dissuade me from convincing my husband to spend several hundred dollars to wipe out brush, bramble, and small trees from our side yard.  The wilderness and unruly tangle was overwhelming to me, and there was only one solution I could think of: it had to go.  I was sure all manner of venomous vermin were lurking in its depths, and total annihilation was the only remedy.  After the crew left, I tried to look at the barren space with satisfaction.  I tried to ignore the lack of song birds perched in the tangled boughs, and I tried not to miss the shade it had provided. 

What I could not ignore, however, was the copious amount of poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and some other unholy thorny vine that quickly filled the space.  The fresh sunlight and empty earth was all the permission they needed to invade and take a deep hold of my yard.  The following summer and fall, I spent countless hours poisoning, pulling, and hauling the vines away.  The wilderness suddenly didn’t seem so bad after all.

I think of how often I do this to my children.  Whenever some untamable wildness pops up, I am so quick to rush in and try to blaze it all down.  I do this out of fear; I’m afraid that something deep lurks underneath the loudness, impetuousness, and inherent foolishness of my children.  My answer again: annihilation.

But what If I had been diligent to simply prune and replant that brush-filled corner of my yard?  Could I now be enjoying a square of wildly beautiful earth?

Years ago, an older, wiser mama introduced me to something called the Gumnazo principle in parenting.  The basic gist is that instead of always addressing behavior with a negative command (Don’t jump on the couch!), give your children a positive option (We jump on the floor or the trampoline outside.  We sit and snuggle on the couch.) In doing so, we are not simply pulling weeds, but replanting wisdom and good habits. 

So often in my efforts to tame my children’s wildernesses, my slash and burn method yields the same thorny vines as my yard.  In hastily acting, I give room for bitterness, anger, and anxiety to take deep roots in my children’s hearts.  It is the constant prayer of my mama heart that the Lord grant me wisdom to carefully prune and replant according to his ways, not my own.

And honestly, our good Maker does the same with me.  How often do I claw against my own wilderness?  How often do I see my own flaws as a wife, a mother, a sister, and daughter, and fall to the temptation to chop myself down? Everything about me that seems unruly, unkempt, wild, and untrainable, I just want to bulldoze down in vain and painful self-effort.  But the Lord is tender and wise with my own heart, pruning the rough patches and pulling the poisonous weeds out by the roots, all the while replanting the emptiness with his own fruits. 

I look at my tender little saplings, and how I so want them to grow in the wisdom and joy of the Lord.  May we as parents look to the Maker of our hearts and theirs as we cultivate their character and their minds, and may we one day rest in the shade and fruit of His faithfulness in their lives and in our own.