One of my neighbors had to go out of town recently for unexpected reasons. They were gone 2 weeks and I was asked to water their plants; and boy did they have a lot of them! I gladly did it; in fact, it was a joy for me to help them out because I knew their plants were very special to them. I took a lot of pride in nurturing each one. Upon my neighbor’s return home, they were very grateful to find that everything was well cared for.
Now, my wife loves plants, too. She, like my neighbor, takes great care of them and has a natural “green thumb”. Coincidently, she has been out of town for the past week. So, I’ve gotten to water her plants, as well. I guess you could say it’s been my only real responsibility around the house this week; on the surface, it doesn’t seem very complicated.
I’ve stuck to the schedule, and walked around the house and the yard to be sure no plants were missed; especially the ones located in not so obvious places. I’ve been so careful about it. My wife called home the other day to check-in and I was very proud to report that, due to my outstanding watering skills, all the plants looked fabulous!
Fast forward to 7am this morning: after waking up, I walked into the bathroom to get ready. As I was brushing my teeth, I looked slightly to the right and noticed a plant sitting on the back of the bathtub; it had brown leaves. OOPS! I had been overlooking this one. Immediately, I thought to myself, “How in the heck could I have missed this plant? It’s located in one of the most obvious places…the bathroom! I go into the bathroom all the time. How is it possible that I missed caring for the one that has been right in front of me every day?”
Without hesitation, I poured a ton of water into the pot. Then, I left to go to the gym, and on the way there I heard the song “Second Chance” by Shinedown. Now, I’ve heard this song several times and it has never set well with me. The writer of the song tells the story of an adolescent leaving leave home; something that is inevitable. The young person has a disagreement with their parents and rather working it out, they run away. Take a look at these lyrics from the chorus of “Second Chance”:
“Tell my mother, Tell my father, I’ve done the best I can, To make them realize This is my life, I hope they understand, I’m not angry, I’m just saying…, Sometimes goodbye Is a second chance”
My job as a parent is to train my kids to leave home successfully. Now, thankfully it’s going to be a while before that happens because they are little. But still, I often think about the day they will leave home and it hurts my heart. I know that nothing can adequately prepare me for how I’ll feel when that fateful moment arrives. I pray that when the day comes, it will be a healthy experience and on good terms.
So, what does watering plants have to do with my kids leaving home? Let me unpack that a bit. As a pastor, I spend a lot of time caring for others outside of my own family. I love that people allow me to be a part of their lives. I have the awesome privilege of providing spiritual direction, wise counsel, and coaching through some of life’s most challenging experiences. In other words, I spend a lot of time tending to other people’s plants. But, do I spend enough time watering the most obvious ones: my own?
I try hard to be a good parent. I have specific boundaries in place to protect my “family time”. I can honestly say that my wife and children are more important than anything else. But, no matter how hard I try, sometimes I drop the ball. On rare occasion, I put work first. Every once in a while, I use the excuse, “I’m too tired” when my kids ask me to play. And unfortunately, I have been known to miss a teachable moment because I’m distracted or being self-absorbed.
Earlier, I mentioned that the song “Second Chance” didn’t sit well with me. Every time I hear it I think about kids leaving home on bad terms, or for the wrong reasons, and that worries me. I pray it won’t happen to my family. And for that reason alone, I’ve got to make sure that I spend plenty of time watering my “little plants”; the ones that are right in front of me. Because when all is said and done, it really doesn’t matter how many other people’s plants I care for. If I neglect the most obvious ones, the ones God has entrusted to my care, I have failed as a father. And moreover, I have failed my Heavenly Father, to whom I am accountable for my family’s well being.
On Father’s Day, we honor Dads for their love, sacrifice, and life-long support. But, for those of us who are Dads, let’s use it as an opportunity to reflect and ask some gut-level questions; be honest in your answers: How are things with your family, really? Does their well-being come first? Do you water other people’s plants and neglect your own? And taking it one step further: If someone were to ask your family those three questions, how would they answer?
We have one shot with our children; we won’t get a “Second Chance.” Make the most of every opportunity so that when the time comes for them to leave home, it will be a healthy experience for all and will be for the right reasons. And above all else, spend time on your knees before God and ask that He’ll give you wisdom to be faithful at life’s most challenging job: watering your “plants”.