As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. — Psalm 127:4
This verse is the theme of a new venture that I am embarking on. As I have read a number of commentaries, articles and comments about this verse, the overriding theme seems to be what the arrows (children) mean to the parents in their old age.
Before we get to this topic, I want to first discuss the topic of our children as arrows. When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, on the night of her graduation party, I spoke a few words on this topic. I explained that she was the first of 5 arrows being launched out into the world. I went on to describe a few of the qualities needed in an arrow. In the next couple of posts I would like to take some of those comments and expound on them, followed up with how Psalm 127:4 has spoken to my heart regarding the future.
Let me preface my comments with letting the readers know that I am not an archer and therefore my reflection on this topic is from my readings and observations on the topic.
As I look at an arrow, the first thing that I see is the shaft.
The shaft. Today, the shaft can be made up of a number of materials, both natural and man-made. “Back in the day” the arrow shaft was made from a number of woods and the selection of material by the fletcher (arrow maker) was dependent on what was available. Just as we find diversity in the shafts of arrows, so is the diversity between, and in families.
The shaft of an arrow needs to be strong, firm but flexible, and straight in order to fly true and accurate to hit its mark. What a tree takes in as nutrients, and how much, determines how well rooted or grounded it is and will ultimately affect the overall strength of the tree, including the density / strength of its branches. A tree flooded regularly with water, or one that does not get enough water will be severely affected. The same can be said of a tree that received too little or is overwhelmed with nutrients. Our children’s spiritual strength will be determined by the kind, how much, or how little spiritual food they are given systematically. Dumping fertilizer at the base of a fruit tree a few days before harvest time is useless and can very likely cause damage. The same goes with our children, we can’t expect to ground them in the Word of God their senior year in high school in anticipation of launching them into the world and expect wonderful results, the cultivating, pruning and nurturing must be done over time.
It is our responsibilities as parents to learn and understand our children, and with God’s grace and wisdom, design a plan to systematically “water and fertilize” our children with the Word of God so that they can grow to be strong in the Lord. The Bible tells us to
“stand fast in faith…and be strong” –I Corinthians 16:13
“be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” – Ephesians 6:10
and we are to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” – II Timothy 2:1
If we expect our children to grow up to be strong in the Lord, we cannot relegate their primary biblical instruction to others. Sadly, too often Christian parents think that because their children are involved in Christian School or in an active youth group at church, their responsibility somehow is fulfilled. These godly resources are wonderful supplements and can be of great value to a family, but God’s plan is for the parents to be the primary instructors of righteousness to their children. As parents, we are to carefully recognize the grain of our children, in other words, the way God has made them and get to know and understand each child individually as we nurture and instruct their lives for the future. I know of many families that homeschool their children because they recognize that even within families, children learn differently. Yet how often do we, do I, use a one size fits all when it comes to training our children spiritually? Sadly, in most cases, we as fathers tend to not do as well in this area as our wives.
Have you ever seen someone try to shoot an arrow made from a very green shoot from a reed of some kind? The moment the string is drawn back and pressure is applied to the arrow, it bends and fails in its purpose. The world is a dark and evil place and Satan is a roaring lion, waiting to consume our children. If we as parent fail to encourage our children and teach them to stand strong in the Lord and in His Word, when we release our children into the world their lack of spiritual strength to stand will cause them to buckle either when we release them or when they hit a target. Parents, how are we teaching our children to stand strong? Are we presuming that somehow our own spiritual growth is going to rub off on them? Our influence as parents is critical, but their faith has to be their own.
I’ll end with this illustration. With my father being pastor, I never knew anything but living in a Christian home. I received Christ as my Savior at a very early age and never really had many doubts about it. I went to a Christian School for grade school, was homeschooled for middle school and attended a very small Christian school for my high school years. Upon graduation, I went off to a very small, very conservative Bible College. Being in a Christian environment all my life it seemed like I knew all the answers to all the Bible questions. I served in various ministries started at about the fourth grade from bus routes to a music group in college. I transferred to a different college / university my senior year causing me to have to go an extra semester. In that summer between my second and third semester of my senior year I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment above a little old couple. I shared the apartment with another Christian young man (maybe five years older than me) who was working at the university. This summer was truly a turning point in my Christian walk. This young man named Terry played the organ at a large Presbyterian church in town and immediately I could tell his standards and mine were very different. I think the first time I met him he was holding a wine cooler. Obviously he didn’t come from the Fundamental, Independent, Bible Believing, KJV only, hell fire preaching, no TV, Baptist circles that I grew up in. God knew that he was just the roommate that I needed that summer. If you know the Schnarrs, I grew up on good lively debates. And so that summer, Terry and I had some good lively debates about our differences. During one of these debates, he said to me, “Don’t tell me what your parents believe, tell me what YOU believe.” And that was a new beginning for me. I had all the answers memorized but I didn’t know the Whys. Why did I believe what I believe? Over the next few years as I began to study and understand why I believed what I did, based on Scripture, some legalistic convictions I held for many years turned to preferences and some preferences became convictions. My faith began to grow deeper. As I began to absorb God’s Word into my life for myself, my faith grew stronger. I learned not to take what a preacher said at face value, but to search the Scriptures for myself. Oh, if I had only learned these things earlier in life.
Parents, are your children following your faith because it is something that is expected, or are you teaching them to learn and develop their own faith? When the winds come, and the enemy attacks, and they will, will your children be able to stand firm on the Word of God or will they parrot only what you have told them and bend like a young green branch? Faith is not inherited, it is planted and cultivated, one life at a time.