What I’m Learning About Training Children from an Olive Tree
I cannot tell you how frustrated I get sometimes as I try to train my children and teach them to love and obey God.
Sometimes they do the same dumb things over and over and over.
I find myself crying out to God “Why don't they get it???!”
Our pastor was preaching Sunday morning from Psalm 128 where God paints a portrait of his design for the family.
I went home with tons of food for thought, but this section right here especially encouraged me:
Psalm 128:3 Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Pastor went on to explain a little of his research on olive plants and why God would have given that description of children in the home. I have also done a little poking around since then, and it is very obvious that God used that description for a reason! The idea of children being like olive plants is absolutely loaded!
This little study of olive plants has been a huge blessing to me as a mother, and I want to share my thoughts here in hopes it will be a blessing to you as well!
The first thing I learned is that before an olive tree is ever planted it can take up to 12 months just to prepare the soil.
Olive tree lesson #1: I cannot train my children to love and obey the Lord if I have not prepared myself first.
I need to be spending time in God's Word and prayer. I need his wisdom. I need to have a thorough knowledge of the scripture so that I will always be ready with the right Scriptures to apply in the situations in which my children find themselves.
Once planted, the olive tree has to be protected from small animals that could damage it. The weeds also need to be kept under control so that they do not steal the nutrition that the tree needs to thrive.
Olive tree lesson #2: I must guard my children from outside influences that can harm them spiritually. My children's spiritual welfare is more important than offending someone who may not be the best influence. Their wishes about what they want to watch or listen to don't really matter. It is my job to protect them spiritually. (See also: Protecting Your Child From the Devil.)
One olive gardening site had a set of FAQ's where the first question was “How much work is involved?” The answer was simply “Plenty!” It is normal for an olive gardener with just a small grove to put in at least 60 hours a week tending to his trees.
Olive tree lesson #3: If I want my children to become mature, fruit-bearing adults, I must give them time. And lots of it.
I cannot expect my children to turn out right if I do not put in the work. And all my efforts to train them in the principles of God's Word are not going to sink in if they do not first know how much I love them. And they will not know how much I love them until I prove it by how much of my time and attention I devote to them.
A very simple concept regarding olive trees is that they will die without sufficient water.
Olive tree lesson #4: My children need the water of the Word daily.
I can tell them “do this”, “do that”, “don't do this” and “don't do that” all I want, but my own words are not good enough. They need the power of the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword. If I teach my children to do or not do certain things because *I* say so, they don't have a good enough reason to do right. They need to do right because God says so. I must constantly point them to the Word of God through daily Bible reading, memorization, and application of God's Word in every situation.
When it comes to sun, olive trees thrive in full sun.
Olive tree lesson #5: If I want my children to thrive, they must constantly have the light of Christ shining on them through me.
If I want my children to learn to love Christ, they need to be able to see his loveliness through my example. If their mother, who claims to love God, is always yelling and saying ugly words, why would they want to have anything to do with Him? (See also: The Law of Kindness.)
When it comes to the question of “Will my kids ever get it? Will they ever put into practice the things I've been teaching them?” I have been encouraged tremendously to become aware of the fact that the peak fruit production years for an olive tree are between 30 and 70 years of age. When carefully tended, they can bear fruit at around 5-10 years, but not nearly the amount of fruit as when they are in their peak years.
Likewise, I cannot expect my children to be producing the fruit of spiritual maturity while they are still children! There will be moments when I can see some of the results of my labor, but the bulk of the fruit will come when they are grown.
Olive Tree Lesson #6: Maturity can't be rushed.
When my kids act like children, I need to remember that it's because they are! I can't let myself get discouraged at the seemingly slow progress!
Additionally, maturity will not happen if consistent care and tending is not given to the olive plant.
What if the olive gardener decided that his young trees were just not bearing fruit quickly enough for his liking and decided to stop tending to them or only cared for them half-heartedly. That would be foolish. He would eventually end up with a grove of full-grown olive trees, but it would be a fruitless mess.
Olive tree lesson #7: Children who grow up to bear fruit for the Lord must receive consistent care and tending.
I as a parent cannot give half-hearted attention to my little seedlings or I'm going to end up with children that grow up to be a fruitless mess.
Perhaps this is one reason why children of seemingly good, Godly people go astray. Out of weariness or frustration, the parents assume that their efforts are futile and allow their child to choose their own path instead of continuing to help influence the direction that child faces.
An olive gardener has to start from the very beginning of a seedling's life to train the tree into the shape he desires. Allowing the tree to grow into whatever shape it may will make it very difficult for the gardener to harvest any fruit that does grow.
The olive gardener has to prune the tree to shape it into the form that will be its structure for life.
Olive tree lesson #8: The shape of my children's entire lives is being determined right now by me as the parent. It is up to me to point them in the right direction.
Extensive pruning, however, can actually do more harm than good to a young olive tree. One olive gardening manual warns that “A determination to form the perfect shape by excessive pruning will weaken the young tree and stunt its growth for a number of years.” For this reason, olive growers do not do much pruning at all for the first 4 or 5 years of a tree's life. The only shoots that should be eliminated are those that compromise the definitive shape of the plant.
Olive tree lesson #9: Nitpicking at my children is only going to discourage them and make them feel like it's pointless to even try. The only thing I should be removing from my children's lives are those things that are actually going to point them in the wrong direction.
Do you discipline harshly for childish things like forgetting to put clothes in the hamper or make their bed? Yes, they need to do those things out of obedience, but sometimes children genuinely forget these things and aren't being purposely rebellious. Gentle reminders will do more good than giving them the 3rd degree for every minor offense.
Although very minimal pruning should be done in the early years of an olive tree, it is important, however, for shoots competing with the main stem to be eliminated to promote its growth.
Olive tree lesson #10: The removal of life-draining activities from my children's lives is good for them and will promote spiritual growth.
How much time do your children spend watching TV, playing pointless video games, or talking to ungodly friends? These things are stealing valuable spiritual nutrients from your children and need to be removed if you want them to be strong and healthy spiritually.
Once an olive tree reaches its peak fruit-bearing years, it will bear an incredible amount of fruit each year as long as it continues to be properly watered and pruned.
Olive tree lesson #11: Faithful parenting will bring great joy when my children are grown.
How wonderful it will be to see my adult children producing fruit for the Lord! Yes, these little years require lots of time, patience, and plain hard work, but the results will be so worth it!
Olive trees can live up to 200 years. After the trunk disappears, a new shoot begins to grow again, thus continually renewing itself generation after generation.
Olive tree lesson #12: Godly parenting can have results that will last to the end of time.
On the flip side, if I fail to train my children properly and they do not grow up to produce spiritual fruit, I wonder how many generations after me will be negatively impacted?
Friends, this parenting thing is hard work. But we are not alone. God has given us his timeless word to know how to care for these little ones. We must seek his wisdom and faithfully carry out the task he has given us.
I hope you were blessed by this post! Would you take a minute to leave me a comment or share this with other moms you know?