Father’s Day: A Forest Isn’t Built in a Day

Jadev Payang, subject of the award-winning documentary ‘Forest Man’, single-handedly planted an entire forest in the middle of a barren wasteland in rural India. He began in 1979 with 20 bamboo seedlings. Today, his forest is larger than Central Park in New York City. It is home to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, deer, rabbits, monkeys, and several types of birds. There are several thousand trees of different varieties and the forest covers an area of 1,360 acres. And it all began with the sowing of a few seeds. And a whole lot of patience.

Jadev Payang’s forest is a lot like our children. Not that they are full of wild beasts (even if at times it might seem like it). Rather, that they, too, require the planting of seeds and a whole lot of patience.

Unfortunately, our children, like us, don’t change overnight. Despite our best efforts, the days can roll by quickly without any obvious signs of progress. Or worse, there are even times when our best efforts seem to result in backwards movement, as our kids head in a different direction to the one we’ve been trying to lead them down.

It is in these moments we need to remember a forest doesn’t grow overnight. It is in these moments we need to broaden our vision of fatherhood.

Jeremy Pryor, the author of ‘Father’s Compass’, suggests the ultimate image of a father is not a young dad posing for a photo with his newborn or throwing his toddler in the air. Rather, the ultimate image of a father is an old man, a grandfather, with his grandchildren all around him. It’s a vision of long-term, multi-generational impact. It’s a vision that requires, like Jadev Payang and his forest, both a determination to plant seeds today along with a whole lot of prayerful patience.

So, on this Father’s Day, my encouragement to Dad’s is to keep sowing seeds today in light of what you hope and pray God will do tomorrow. Keep sowing seeds in the present in the hope that, under God’s gracious providence, they will bear fruit in the lives of your children and grandchildren in the decades to come.

This, I believe, is the meaning of the well-known but often misunderstood proverb in Proverbs 22:6: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.’ Charles Bridges writes in his commentary: “…the religious training of a child must not be the edge of a garment that can easily be trimmed off. It must be the pervading substance of his life. Pray for your child. Teach your child to pray. Instruct him from childhood in the holy Scriptures as the sole rule of faith and way to behave.”

Paul says about Timothy, “…as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14)

Practically speaking, this means a thousand different things. Many of them small, seemingly inconsequential actions. Reading the Bible with your kids. Praying with your kids. Praying for your kids. Taking your kids to church. Teaching them forgiveness. Asking for their forgiveness. Being present with them. Speaking words of life to them and over them. I could go on.

I appreciate the list that Jon Tyson, pastor of Church of the City New York and author of ‘The Intentional Father’, gives in the blog post which inspired this post (‘Don’t measure the harvest, measure the seeds’). He writes:

Sow seeds of encouragement instead of criticism.
Sow seeds of attention, put your phone down.
Sow seeds of morality, model integrity in the small things.
Sow seeds of discipline, let your kids see you restrain yourself.
Sow seeds of courage, confront things they know you hate.
Sow seeds of servanthood, do the overlooked stuff without fanfare.
Sow seeds of a godly marriage, be affectionate with your wife in front of the kids. These may not seem like much, but these seeds can re-forest the desert of a family’s soul, if done with persistence and intention.

Indeed. Dad’s, let’s keep planting. After all, a forest isn’t built in a day.

Happy Father’s Day.