I have learned a little bit about planting grass. I have seen some want-to-be landscapers sprinkle a special fertilizer on anemic grass, and instant lush green success. The trouble is that it only promotes top growth, and the weeds quickly outgrow the grass. You end up with more trouble than you started with. I don’t plant for quick growth anymore. Now I fertilize the roots. I know the rest will come in time. The better the roots, the healthier the plant will be.
As I taught in school the other day, I was impressed with the need to help my students develop the same kind of deep, hearty root system in their lives as well. Roots are the foundational truths and habits that we should form early in our life. They are faith, and family, and friends. They are a source of strength and an anchor for the soul. There is so little that a young person can hang on to these days. Love is a cheap word. Friend has been redefined. Marriage and family are out of style. God and faith are relegated to a convenient drawer only to be opened in case of an emergency. Excellence and a good work ethic are no longer promoted, and dishonesty and graft have taken their place. The result is a vacuum filled with a pathetic, despondent, selfish generation with no direction. I choose instead to revive and teach these old truths and let them bring stability and hope once again. It takes some work, and the results often cannot be seen; but by the grace of God, I will help my students build their own deep root system.
I must help them build their knowledge of the Bible and help them develop a relationship with God. It is critical that I do all I can to help them learn to spend time with God and develop their own Bible and prayer time. It must be more than “live off the truths that I give you.” You can’t stay in the walker forever. They must learn to walk on their own.
I must help them develop a well-rounded academic background. Far too many Christians are poor at English, or math, or history. This will be a handicap in their future. Their lack of fundamental skills and background will allow them to be swayed easily with some new “wave” that will undermine their credibility and even their faith in God.
Students must be directed to develop self-discipline. They must be honest, hard-workers. Too many Christian school children behave well as long as the parent or teacher is there to ensure compliance but fail miserably when tested when no one else is around.
It is easy to sprinkle a little “instant green” fertilizer on my students. It will make me look good for a little while, but the results don’t last. You know, memorize a few facts; but they don’t understand what they mean. Teach the test questions and answers, but do not cover the material—tricks like that. The tests look good; students recite the right things; parents are happy. The trouble is that when my students get a little older they don’t know how to vote; they don’t understand what they read; they have very shallow root systems, and the weeds grow quite easily. Ephesians six exhorts the Christian soldier to stand. Rootless Christians have nothing to stand on. It is more than ever imperative that the Christian teacher encourage his students to develop the kind of roots that can stand up to this evil day. A Christian without roots is doomed to disaster.
It is equally important to encourage proper physical development. Good diet, proper posture, good exercise are all fundamental to proper growth. How important the formative years are to developing proper health habits. How much good can a Bible scholar be if he is an anemic, bed-ridden patient. No doubt he can do something for God, but how much more if he is healthy and fit?
I must help them develop proper manners and personal relationships. Our pastor is so good with encouraging us to build appropriate relationships. If one cannot make and keep friends as a child, then surely one will have poor relationships and little influence when he is older.
I thank God that my parents, pastor, and my teachers helped me develop good roots. They have been so valuable as they allowed me to make stable decisions and avoid much grief. They have held me steady when I might have moved my convictions. It is not easy to see the roots. It is easy to farm for quick growth, but quick, shallow growth can’t stand the storms. Only time will tell how much I have done to help my students sink their roots down deep.
DEVELOPING ROOTS IN A CHILD
The right soil: good home; good church; good school
The right plant can grow in almost any kind of soil; the wrong plant will likely die no matter the soil.
The right place: shade, light, wet, dry, Sunshine too much, too little, just right, spiritual life
The right season: different seasons—winter, spring, summer, fall; it changes with age and then cycles again.
The right attention:
- Water too much, too little, just right—professional life
- Fertilize too much, too little, just right—personal life, balance, brotherhood
- Pull the weeds—friends, work, atmosphere, easier when weeds are young, before weeds seed
- Loosen the soil, gives roots a place to breathe and grow
The right harvest
- Some for seed: for the future
- Some for beauty: brings pleasure
- Some fruit: for energy
- Some vegetables: for nutrients
- Some for healing: restores the soul
- Some for protection: pine trees to hold the soil and block the wind
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Jim Carey was the first staff member hired by Pastor Trieber in 1976. For over 40 years, he has served in many capacities. He has taught in the Christian school since its inception and has taught junior church every Sunday for that entire time as well.