(Originally posted in August 2011. Once I get over the cold that has seized my life, perhaps I’ll have more original thoughts to convey…)
This morning on the news, I heard that NASA has launched an unmanned spacecraft destined for Jupiter. This craft…it will fly for 5 years before reaching its destination on a faraway planet. Five years! When I heard that, I looked over at my daughter, who – at that moment – was fiddling with beads and wire for the first time in her life.
I looked at her, in her early childhood, and all I could think was, “When that crazy technological wonder of a spacecraft reaches Jupiter, my little girl – this little person sitting here with me – will be nearly 8 years old.”
Something about that floored me, and I kept thinking about what an eight year-old Jennifer would be like. I tried to imagine her being more grown up than she is now…what her interests might be and how her personality might have developed…but it was very hard to do so. She’s different today than she was yesterday, and I imagine that tonight, when I tuck her into her bed and kiss her goodnight, she’ll be different – in seen or unseen ways – than she was when I took her the first cup of milk this morning. She will, and while ultimately all of her development and life are in God’s hands, I will have played some sort of a role in those changes as they happen.
So five years from now…or five days from now…what seeds will I have planted in her life that will only then be blooming?
It makes me think. It makes me realize, again and for the first time, that everything I do with her will plant a seed in her life. Every conversation…every interaction…every disciplinary move and early morning snuggle…everything I do plants something in her.
In a way, as I type that, I think it’s an exaggeration. Maybe a little melodramatic.
And maybe it is…but maybe it isn’t. Perhaps not everything I do and not everything she experiences will embed itself into her little heart and mind like a subconscious splinter. Maybe some things will, and some things won’t. How can I say, though, what will and what will not leave a permanent impact on her? How can I know which harsh words will sting for a moment, only to be forgotten in a few minutes…and which ones will echo in her ears and in her heart for minutes and years, altering who she becomes?
When my little girl is eight…eighteen…twenty eight…years old, the person she is will, to some extent, be a result of what I have been to her. The things I say to her and the things she experiences with me and the things she sees in me will all meld together to become the bundle of influence her mama had on her. Because I am human, I will not live in constant awareness of this fact. Life will get in the way and I’ll speak without thinking and act without reason. Because I am human, I cannot be who I want to be on my own power. Left to my own devices, I cringe to think what sort of an influence I’ll have on this precious life.
Thankfully, though, I don’t have to live on my own devices. I don’t have to do it myself. I don’t have to be perfect. I can make mistakes and still have a positive influence on her, as long as I point to the Lord as I get back up from my fall. He’ll help me plant seeds that are worth growing. He knows which words will linger and which won’t, and He has the power to grow things in her that I can’t control.
I’m so thankful that as hard as it is, I don’t have to rely on my own power. Really, if I can show her that – that I’m not relying on my own power as I attempt to be who she and God need me to be – then I’ll have planted the most important seed of all.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:13)
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)