"Pretend with me that I have a big apple tree in my backyard and that every year it buds and grows apples. But just as the apples are ready to be picked, they rot and fall to the ground. After several seasons of this, my wife comes to me and says, "You know, Paul, it doesn't make much sense to have an apple tree and never be able to eat the apples. All we ever end up with is brown mush on our lawn. Can't you do something with our apple tree?" So I think and ponder and come up with an idea. I tell my wife that I am going to fix our tree and that I will be gone for about an hour, picking up the things that I need.
Before long I return to the yard carrying a step ladder, a pair of branch cutters, an industrial grade stapler, and two bushels of apples. I carefully cut all of the rotten apples off the tree and staple bright red Delicious apples to it. Delighted that I have fixed the problem, I call my wife out to the yard to look at the tree.
Ridiculous? Yes! Ridiculous because I have not solved the problem. The problem was more that a fruit problem. There is something fundamentally wrong with the tree itself, even to the level of its roots, that needs to change. I have exchanged good fruit for bad fruit, but the tree itself is still unable to produce healthy fruit. What's more, the fruit I have artificially attached to the tree cannot last because it has nothing to give it life, healthy roots that can nourish it."
from Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp, p49-50
This story is based upon the parable found in Luke 6:43-45, and I share it here because it strikes a deep, resounding chord with me as a mother. When my children were young, my parenting began with a desire for them to simply be good. Polite, caring manners, appropriate behaviour, respectful, and so on. These are all good things, but as most parents learn at some point in their family life, sometimes these fruits show themselves to be stapled, not part of the plant. Stapled fruit reveals itself by falling away when my children are away from my parental guidance and face peer pressure, temptation, or a simple desire to follow their own inclination. As the real aim of parenting is to shepherd the hearts of my children, I need to consider this fallen fruit and consider the heart of the matter. I need to turn my attention to the soil and roots that nourish my children's hearts, souls, and minds.
Sometimes training our children in good habits is little more than a fruit stapling exercise. Which none of us truly desire. I think that if we are able to ignite our children's moral imaginations, remember always they are persons created by God, get to know them and work with them, and think through life with them, we will be well on the way to nourishing their roots so their hearts bring forth good fruit. Whether that fruit be oranges, apples, pears, or passionfruit.
This is something I will be contemplating this week.