It’s nearly spring and time to get out the gardening tools! Some of my earliest memories of my parents include seeing them in the garden, either planting seeds or young plants, hoeing the weeds, or picking the vegetables. So it was a natural thing for them to decide to teach me and my sisters how to make things grow. The first lesson began out in the field behind our house. Daddy had prepared it the afternoon before, and the rich dirt was piled in rows, spaced just the right distance apart to handle the size of the fully grown vegetables. We were instructed to be careful not to put our feet on the mounds of dirt, but to stand in the packed earth next to them. Describing each step as he went, Daddy grabbed a young cabbage plant with one hand, as he dug a small hole with the other. Placing the roots neatly in the hole, he covered them gently and loosely packed some dirt around the edges. After going through this process several times, he asked us if we were ready to try. My older smarter sister said that she needed more instruction and asked if he would show us a few more times. After another round of planting, covering with earth, and gently packing, he repeated the question.

“Are you ready to plant now?”

But again, my sister asked for more time, watching as the pile of little cabbage plants waiting to be put into the earth was growing smaller. The sun was hot and it was much easier to stand and watch than to get down on her knees in the dirt and do the work. But my wise dad, knowing her ploy, insisted this time.

You may have a similar memory, when your parents were instructing you on how to do something. You were to watch them exactly and do what they did. That’s how you first learned to get dressed, make a sandwich, or drive a car. If your mom did things a certain way, you learned her way and did the same. Some things your parents did, you are doing even to this day. They didn’t always sit you down and say, “This is the way you do it.”

You just watched them and copied their actions. If they invited people into your home for a meal when you were growing up, chances are, you do the same. If they reached out to the poor and needy, you do it too. What you saw in their lives was a pattern for you to follow. You thought everybody did things the way your family did them, until you grew up and found out differently.

In reading my devotions this morning, I was struck with Paul’s words as he wrote in Philippians 4:9, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Paul is reminding the folks at the church in Philippi about how he has instructed them to live. But he is also telling them to copy his lifestyle, what they have seen him do or heard him say. He was bold enough to tell them that he knew he was a good example. I don’t think he’s saying this with any pride. He is merely stating a fact, that what they were seeing in his life was also truly what was in his heart. He was not a fake or hypocrite. He was real. Through his other writings, we can see that he was very transparent, admitting his struggles and his faults.

Can we honestly tell other people to do what we do? Can they look at our actions and get a godly example to follow? What about our words? Can they listen to what we say, our tone of voice, and hear what true Christians are supposed to sound like? When we do fail, as we all do, are we quick to admit our wrongs and make things right? Maybe God put this verse in the Bible as a reminder to us all, to be careful always, at home, in the office, at the store, in the car, wherever, to be an example of the believer, because people are watching. What kind of example are you? Can you tell people, “The things you’ve seen me do or heard me say, you should do as well, because it is right”?