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Foundation Truth, Number 13 (Spring 2006) | Timeless Truths Publications

From a Message on Nurture

“And you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.”* (Ephesians 6:4)

My dictionary tells me that nurture means: “Something that nourishes, sustains,” and, “To nourish, to feed, to foster the development of; to guide, nurse along, promote, encourage, incubate.” It comes from the Latin word nurturtura, which means literally, “to suckle.” To nurture.

We read about people that have green thumbs. I remember reading about George Washington Carver. The first thing that he had was a sensitivity, a concern, a care. He wanted to know what these little plants needed, and so he sought them out. He roamed about, and he’d find certain kinds of plants, and he’d study them. He’d see which ones prospered, and which ones didn’t, and then he’d try to isolate the reasons why they’d prosper and why they wouldn’t. He got pretty good at it. Even when he was still young, if you had a sickly plant, you could call on George Washington Carver, and he’d come over and figure out how to make it flourish again. Now that’s quite a skill to have, isn’t it? He knew which ones like shade and which ones like sun. He knew what kind of soil they liked to have around their roots. He had grown an interest in finding out the requirements for growth and for prosperity of many, many, many varieties of plants, to the point that he was able to apply that knowledge in any given case.

That’s valuable, isn’t it? That’s a nurturing spirit: a desire to sustain, a desire to nourish, the ability to encourage, to help, to promote growth and development. Nurture. “Bring up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” It means something to have the spiritual equivalent of a green thumb inside of our experience.

Well, let’s read another scripture that touches on this thought of a nurturing spirit. We will jump in the middle of Nathan’s tale to David. It says, “But the poor man had nothing, save the one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.”* (2 Samuel 12:3) Now this is a beautiful picture of nurturing. This, of course, is a symbolic story, but aside from its context, we want to focus upon the nature of this nurturing picture.

This poor man, he had one ewe lamb, just one: “This is all I’ve got. If this lamb is going to grow up, to fulfill its destiny as a sheep, I’m going to have to take special care. I’m going to have to do a lot for it.”

Notice the different things that this poor man did. It grew up together with him, it shared in his experiences. No leaving it outside—they just brought it right in the household, didn’t they? It grew up with him, and with his children. It was highly valued. And so we come to one of the principles of nurturing: we put a high value on that which we nurture. We see it’s great worth—oh, the great worth of putting character inside of a young person! It’s worth so much sacrifice, it’s worth so much time. We want to do everything that’s necessary for something to be nurtured. And so this poor man, he put a high value on this lamb, didn’t he?

“This is our lamb.”

“Where does it sleep at night?”

“Right here with us, in bed.”

“Where does it eat?”

“Right here at the kitchen table.”

If you went over to the rich man’s house, and you said, “Do you have any of these lambs that are so valuable to you that they eat at the table?”

“No, we just keep them out there in the field.”

There wasn’t anything of the same nurturing spirit, was there? We see then the second principle of nurturing: there is an intimacy involved in it, there is a bringing into the heart and affections, a closeness that comes out of it. It means to love people enough that, if they would let us, we would do everything we could to get over to them the things that they need. This is a nurturing spirit, isn’t it? And this is what the poor man had toward the one little ewe lamb that he had.

Now you’ll notice that this closeness and intimacy brings about an awareness, a close awareness. If I’m distant from things, I can’t nurture them very well. Nurturing doesn’t work too well long distance, does it? There has to be a closeness there, there has got to be something that is seen. I can’t imagine being married to my wife, and living apart for, say, ten years. It just wouldn’t work. I couldn’t nurture our marriage. She couldn’t either. You say, “Well, you could write, couldn’t you?” Yes, we could write—maybe, under some circumstances, you might have to. Maybe you’d be separated; maybe one of you would be in prison. Maybe it’s just the way things worked out—you are separated by forces you couldn’t control. But there would be so much amiss, because there is so much awareness and alertness and sensitivity that comes from being together, close together.

When she feeds me breakfast in the morning, my wife sustains me. I live on the product of her hands. I’ve thought different times, that if she no longer had an interest in me, or she died, it wouldn’t go so well with me. But there’s more to it than that, see? There is the way she smiles. There’s the way her eyes look. There is the way that she is aware of how I come in the room, and I’m aware of how she comes in the room. Our lives are built in this way, and they are dedicated to the emotional nurture of each other. I don’t want her ever to be in a place where she feels that nobody loves her. I would go to extraordinary lengths, incredible lengths, to try to reassure her of her first place in my affections. If I detect at any point that she begins to feel sad or lonely, I want to be right in there doing all I can, see? This is nurturing, folks. This is what it means.

I feel the same way toward my daughters. Their relationship is not precisely as it is with my wife, but it is still a nurturing effect, you see. Everything that is done in this—including the fact that I want them to be adults on their own, to grow up, and to be able to be somewhat independent of their mom and dad—is part of the nurturing effect with them. But in the case of my wife, I don’t want her to grow up and be independent of me. I want us to be close together all our lives, that’s what I’m aiming for there.

So you can see that another feature of nurturing is to be able to draw fine distinctions. “This is our lamb. We want this lamb to grow up to be a nice, healthy sheep, and to fulfill her sheeply life, and to have all the things that belong to making a sheep happy. Because of that, when we eat, she eats, and we watch her eat. We look at her sheeply face, and we are satisfied. This sheep is doing well, this sheep is healthy, this sheep is having a nice sheep life. This sheep is growing up!”

This was the effect of the nurturing that this poor man put into this little lamb, wasn’t it? He had bought and nourished it up, and it grew up together with him. Nurturing involves sharing, doesn’t it? It’s not a one-way street. It’s not that you just give it to someone else, it’s that there is a two-way street.

I like to play with little children and I enjoy it when they are tickled and have fun, but you know, I like for little children to play with me and to have fun, too! In a sense, I enter into their fun, and they enter into mine, and this is part of the nurturing process. A child needs to have fun, but I want to tell you something, a grownup needs to have fun, too. One of the best places you can have fun is with little innocent hearts. They enjoy it so much, and you enter into it. It’s all part of the nurturing effect. It isn’t just that this sheep is growing up, it’s that we’re growing up together, praise the Lord. There is something in this. It’s not that Mom and Dad know it all, and they stand up as great, omnipotent king and queen over the rest of the family, it’s the fact that we’re all growing up together and sharing our lives. And that’s the way it was in this nurturing, poor man’s family that Nathan was telling David about. He painted a beautiful picture, didn’t he? It says it “grew up together with him, and with his children.”

God meant for people to nurture each other. God puts us in places of responsibility and authority over one another, so that we can share in that relationship. So that we can learn, and sometimes, it reverses. Quite often, toward the end of our lives, it reverses, and the parents become like children. The children become like their parents. Happy indeed, is the family that has had nurturing all their lives, and slip easily into reverse nurturing. That means a great deal, doesn’t it, at that point? Where one has been giving, one has laid up for the children all these years, and now the children can freely start giving back in what time is left. It means a lot to have a nurturing heart, doesn’t it?