Have you ever shot an arrow at a target? How did you do? Did your arrow hit the bullseye, land elsewhere on the target, or miss the mark altogether?
You may be wondering what this has to do with parenting. Well, Scripture is full of analogies, and my favorite concerns the launching of arrows. It is found in Psalm 127.
“As arrows are . . . so are children.” Since arrows can’t take aim or launch themselves, it is reasonable to expand the analogy to include: “As archers are . . . so are parents.”
In Bible times, the archer launched his arrows in hunting or in war. Each arrow had a purpose. The purpose of the arrow in the hunt was to provide food. The purpose of the arrow in the war was to bring down the enemy. Either way, the archer located the target, aimed the arrow, and decided when to let it fly.
In the same way, God uses parents to launch the arrows He has placed in our quivers. However, just knowing where we want our children to land will not guarantee that they will fly straight and hit the target. To accomplish this requires commitment and skill. As parents, we are responsible to point our children in the right direction.
DEFINE THE TARGET for your children
First, we must define the target. There are many targets we can point our children towards: education, wealth, fame, success, popularity, and more. However, only one target encompasses all they are meant to be. This target is the will of God. We find it described in many ways in scripture:
- “the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14)
- “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33)
- “the strait gate” and “the narrow way” (Matt. 7:13-14)
- “being conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29)
- “the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2)
When we aim our arrows at this mark, all the other goals in life will fall into place. The primary issue is not “Will my child go to college, get married, get a job, etc.”, but “Will he fly straight into God’s will?”
Once we’ve identified the target, we must consistently work to point our children in the right direction. Since the target is God’s will, we must be diligent to teach our children to trust in the Lord with all their hearts and to not lean on their own understanding. They must learn to acknowledge God in all their ways, and He will direct their paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). Consequently, they will hit the target.
help your children FLY STRAIGHT
One of the most important things we will teach our children is how to discern the will of God. We share our standards and convictions with our children and teach them right from wrong – not because Mommy and Daddy say so – but because God’s Word says so. It’s not the right behavior, or upright standards and convictions, that will produce godly character in our children. Rather it is their own commitment to Christ and the principles of God’s Word that will keep them flying straight.
Children do not “naturally” fly straight. As they grow, we release them to fly short distances. Sometimes they hit the mark – sometimes they miss. Missed marks offer training opportunities. I think of this process as target practice. If our children don’t learn to fly straight at a young age, they will have difficulty hitting the mark once they are released.
TIME IN THE QUIVER
Every serious archer has a quiver that holds his arrows until he is ready to let them fly. Although our children may think they’re ready to fly, time in the quiver is important. A quiver is a place of preparation, a place of waiting, and a place of protection. A wise parent keeps a watchful eye and patiently waits until the target is well within sight and the arrow is ready to fly straight.
A place of preparation
Every archer knows that, once an arrow is fully released, he has no control over where it lands. Any corrections to the arrow must be made before he lets it fly. Parents spend their lives preparing their children for the day they are ready to be launched out into the world. As mentioned above, there may be times an arrow is released, retrieved, and placed back into the quiver. The corrections made and the lessons learned on these “trial” flights are valuable preparation for the final flight.
a place of protection
Not only is the quiver a place of preparation, but it is also a place of protection. Once the arrow is drawn from the quiver and released, it becomes more vulnerable to the enemy. I think one of the most difficult aspects of releasing our children is the knowledge of the hardships that they may face along the way. It is tempting to keep them in the quiver where they are safe. Nevertheless, we must let them go. An arrow in the quiver will never hit the target.
a place of waiting
Finally, the quiver is a place of waiting. We spend years teaching and preparing our children for the day they will be drawn from the quiver. Although we will constantly work with our children until they are released, there comes a point in time where most of the training has taken place. This is a time of waiting and watching and praying for God to bring the target into range.
time to release your children
When an archer draws his bow, he will often hold it taut until the time is right for him to release the arrow. The tension of the bow may not be comfortable, but the archer knows that an arrow released too early or too late might miss the mark. Likewise, we need to be aware of the possible tension that may arise right before releasing our children.
Some of the tensest moments in parenting take place right before we let our arrows fly. Whether we are planning a wedding, sending a child off to college, or releasing them to live on their own, emotions can run high, and tensions arise. We find that the most difficult time to hold onto our children is right before we let them go. As the target gets nearer, they become impatient, and we get anxious to release them. They want to fly, and we want to see them fly.
When an archer releases an arrow, it’s not long before it reaches the target. He knows almost immediately how successful he has been. However, this is where the analogy breaks down. It will take years for our children to hit the final mark. In fact, we’re all still flying towards that mark. There will be victories along the way – goals met – lessons learned – times of maturing, but the end mark is not yet in sight. Consequently, God uses every experience along life’s road to prepare us for what is yet to come.
a precious promise
When we are diligent in teaching our children to seek and follow God’s will, we can trust Him to help them hit the target once they are released. Yet, we must remember – Our children will never be perfect. There will often be situations in their lives that can make us worry about their future. However, God has given us a precious promise to claim:
Just as the archer confidently released his arrows to fly towards the goal, so can we, with confidence. . .
LET OUR ARROWS FLY!
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