by Anne Ortlund
A few miles south of us, near the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, the Spoon River flows into the Illinois. At this time of year, spring rains and thawing ice and snow push the muddy waters up over their banks, forming small lakes across cornfields. It won’t be until summer, when the waters have receded, that the soft brown clay will bear the marks of the river’s ebb and flow and once again red-tailed hawks and Canadian geese will be seen nesting and playing with their young along the riverside. I love visiting this beautiful part of the state, especially when everything is coming to life.
In Anne Ortlund’s wonderful book called Children Are Wet Cement, the reader is taken along on a similar journey. As Anne shares stories from her childhood, we are shown a picture of what happens when parents allow their own lives to overflow into those of their children, leaving impressions and creating memories that produce a spiritually fertile environment.
Raised on military bases by a dad who was a U.S. Army general and a mom who was a homemaker, Anne describes a childhood where the children are treasured as precious gifts from the Lord and each are valued. It is from that heritage of wise parenting that Anne flourishes as she grows from being a child to being a wife and mom. In a collection of 52 two to three page chapters, Anne reflects on those simple moments with her parents that left their marks on her life, the impressions made in her wet cement.
I first read this book when it was published in 1978 and it had a profound impact on the way I parented my own children. At the time, I had a toddler and a preschooler and was expecting my third child, which was a story very similar to Anne’s. On the pages of her life I saw myself, evaluating my own growing up years, struggling to gain the proper perspective, appreciating this author as the only “older woman” I had in my life at the time.
Having grown up in a Christian home and especially influenced by my grandmother whose spiritual fingers are still reaching out into the lives of her family, I understood the power of giving my children a vision of being successful Christians from their earliest days and Anne confirmed all those things I knew. But she also introduced me to new ideas and concepts that I only realized I had so completely assimilated 30 years later when I reread her book and reflected on how we raised our children. Listen to what she says:
“So what do we do to encourage them to grow inwardly, to become resourceful and creative, to think, to meditate, to lay the foundation for growing up well? Don’t push, but affirm them! Give them the sense that all is well, that their rate of progress is acceptable to you, that you like them just the way they are…..Guide them but be delighted in them. Let them know that life is to be reached for and drunk of deeply…..Enthusiastic, that’s how you want them to grow up! The word comes from “en Theo,” or “in God.” Support them with words of faith, hope, and love, and in that framework “in God,” they’ll be ready to tackle everything. Fears and cautions are built in at an early age but so is courage! Tomorrow’s world will be different if your child has been released to experiment, to risk, to lead others, to pursue righteousness, to be an affecter for good in society, to go courageously after God.”
Children Are Wet Cement is a book about one anothering, it is about cherishing childhood each and every day, of imprinting your children with eternal things. It will both encourage and challenge you and it might even convict you, all the elements of a great read!