I noticed right off that the young trees in the parsonage yard were leaning to one side instead of standing up straight. Looking closer I saw they were tied to lean that way!
We had just moved to the parsonage in Kansas and I went straight to my husband with this information. He was not sure why the tree was tied that way so he asked for an explanation from a church trustee. Bill looked at him sort of funny and then, realizing my husband was serious, started to explain.
In Kansas, he said, all trees are planted two degrees to the south. There is a constant, prevailing wind that blows from this direction. If a tree is not carefully tended to and staked the two degrees south of straight it will most likely grow up crooked, leaning to the north and looking like a hard wind is blowing it at all times.
I began to think of the young children in my home. They were like trees, I thought, sprouting up almost overnight. I wondered what the prevailing winds were that blew on them. What were the stakes that held them, the water and sun that made them grow?
My children had the concern, prayer, and influence of parents but because they were part of a minister's family, they also were cared for by godly church leaders on all levels from local to District to General.
I thought of the prevailing influence of teachers, both at public schools, and later on, at a church college. The prevailing influence of godly counselors at church camp had also been of great value.
Then there was the influence of the children themselves on each other. Individual differences were quickly laid aside if any of the four siblings had a problem. No doubt, the influence of the older two had a profound influence on the younger children.
I then began to examine the other side of the prevailing winds. If the sapling is left not staked and not planted the two degrees to the south, it will surely lean to the north instead of standing straight. The root system will not be as sturdy on this tree and heavy winds will uproot it in a storm.
Again I made the comparison to my children.
There were the battles over "but everyone else gets to!" This usually means one other person. The complaining of church attendance was another battle, especially if few young people attended. We had to take our stand a few times in places we have lived to keep Wednesday night "church night." No Sunday evening baseball make-up games were played in our town either because Christian parents guarded and nurtured the children.
I thought of the prevailing winds of selfishness I had seen at times in my children's peers and I had wanted to say, "Hey, you need a missionary family to pray for. You need to feel burdened to give the money you've saved for a new bike to a home missionary project; a home for wayward teens or a prison ministry."
Clearly the prevailing winds of the godly concern and influence of Christian people help to straighten young saplings of children to perfection.
The mission of the church has been a great factor in shaping the lives of our children. The Home Missions, Foreign Missions programs, camps, and the privilege to serve, have all had a bearing on the growth of our children. Prayer and gentle nurturing in the home, godly advice and love have been the fertilizer to the growing trees.
All this is weighed against the prevailing winds of the unrighteous, the worldly influence and the evil forces Satan throws across their pathways. It is, in finality, a losing battle for Satan.
The child takes all the prevailing winds of good and grows straight to Christian adulthood. He or she becomes a steward in the church, a servant to God and to humanity.
As the growth is completed there is no crooked leaning to the north. The roots are solid and the spine is straight.
I have learned many things from "The People of the South Wind" during the 15 years we lived in Kansas. How to plant trees is just one of them.
As the sapling is staked, so grows the tree.