Growing a garden is a lot like raising children–we have an image in our minds of the hoped-for harvest, but we start with bare potential.
Along the way, we notice that the seeds we plant are not the only ones growing in our garden. We need to be diligent in nourishing the good seeds and discouraging the weeds.
And while we tend the garden, nurture, and protect, it is the plants themselves that must do the growing. We can neither grow nor produce fruit for them–we can only nourish and guide the growth that comes from within.
Of course, the kinds of fruits we harvest in the garden depend on the types of seeds we plant, and on our diligence in nourishing them. Our children are no different–we need to carefully consider what seeds we are planting and nourishing, or allowing others to plant and nourish, in their lives.
In our home, we have chosen certain attributes we desire to nurture in our children’s hearts and lives. Together, these attributes tend towards the development of Wisdom, defined by Noah Webster as “the right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them.”
The attributes are:
Work, because work and life are fundamentally intertwined. There is a temptation to seek the good fruits of life without personally laboring for them; when pursued in this way, the fruits that look so delicious prove in the end to be bitter, leading to great misery. True joy is found in the sweet fruits of our own diligent labors, and in the blessing of God that such labor calls down.
Integrity is the internal compass that holds us to our course. Integrity is a choice we make every day, every moment–but a choice that gets easier the more times we choose it. Our life is a process of becoming, and we must choose what to become. When we choose dishonesty, we become something warped, something undefinable, something not whole. Only by consistently choosing to be honest, to follow our internal compass, do we grow into what we should be.
Service is both our teacher and our refiner. Our lives have value in accordance with the service we give, the impact we have on the lives of others. Our own joy is increased as our lives are intertwined with those around us through service. Our hearts expand, our ability to love, as well as our ability to comprehend love, grows. When we focus only on ourselves our world grows small, and we lose the ability to see beyond a tiny, and lonely, personal sphere. When we serve God, we begin to see as He sees and to love as He loves. When we serve others, we find our own darkness brightened by expanding circles of love and hope.
Discernment is the attribute that allows us to choose what is good, true, just, beautiful, and sweet. We must learn to discern light from dark, good from bad, true from false, sweet from bitter. Much of modern society teaches that right and wrong, good and bad, are no more than illusion. Truth is relative, and anything that seems desirable is a worthy pursuit. God teaches us otherwise, and as we seek His guidance, and cultivate our sensitivity to truth, we will find ourselves increasingly able to discern with clarity the light from the shadows amid the complexity of our world.
Obedience bears the fruits of security and peace. We seek above all to obey God who is our Father in Heaven. His plan for us is perfect, His mind knows both the challenges of our life moment by moment and the clear path ahead of us. God never compels us to obedience; it is our own choice to submit our will to his, or to seek out our own path without his guidance.
Mastery is above all mastery of self, the choice to consistently make the difficult choice, do the hard work, make the personal sacrifice, to which duty calls us. Mastery of self allows us to turn from each false enticement, and to continue to walk in the strait path. In education, we should also seek for mastery of the knowledge and skills that lead us towards our goals. We are not working to pass a test, to check off a box, or to impress someone–rather, we desire to fully own what we learn, to make it a part of us, a tool we can use as we work and as we serve.
To plant these seeds, to nourish them, and ultimately for myself and my children to taste of their sweet fruits, is my greatest desire.