Blackberries are ripening in Indiana. The warm, rainy summer has left our crop of berries abundant. Behind our barn on the east side of our property, the blackberry bushes grow wild, twisting and climbing, weaving their way over old tree stumps and hiding the fresh fruit behind tall weeds. I love to grab a large bowl from the kitchen and make my way behind the barn to pick the dark purple berries. I reach gingerly past the thorns and delicately pull the berries free from the vine. By the time I’m ﬁnished, the bowl is full, and I head to the kitchen to make dessert. My hands are stained purple and tiny scratches cover my arms, webbed reminders of the delicate and painful work of harvesting this sweet treat.
Raising children can be much like harvesting blackberries—delicate, careful, painful, and sweet. Throughout my years as a parent of eight, I have had the full mix of experiences while raising children. Sometimes our children’s behavior is prickly—a cranky toddler rubbing his eyes and gulping sobs of weariness; a preschooler screaming and throwing her untied shoe, convinced she will never be able to tie it without help; the preteen switch from holding a parent’s hand to pretending he doesn’t even know them; and the teenager’s arguing and pushing her parent to the brink of exhaustion.
The prickliness points to something deeper, though. Just as the blackberry vine produces sharp thorns to protect its delicate fruit, our children develop prickly traits to let us know of something deeper. The toddler needs us to gently place him down for a nap. The preschooler needs us to guide with patience and a warm smile of encouragement. The preteen needs us to stand a few feet farther away when friends are around—not too far but just far enough for him to unfurl his own wings. The teenager needs us to listen to the argument for further understanding as guide and make space for her to climb ever further toward the sun.
Galatians 6:9 (NIV): Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
My mom always reminds me that I am raising adults, not children. The goal is adulthood and tending to the vibrant fruit that the heart of each child possesses. During each season of parenting, we must strive to patiently persevere, to delicately encourage, to prune when necessary. Reach beyond the prickliness that each stage brings and delight in the beautiful fruit, the true heart and nature of the child.
What is one way you can show patience toward your child today? How will you be delicate with their heart as they navigate the sometimes prickliness of childhood?
Lord, thank you for the uniqueness and beauty of my child. Thank you for allowing me to be the gardener. Please show me the way to encourage beautiful growth in my child. I delight in the child you have made. Please guide me today. Amen