William Tell, William Tell,
Take your arrow, grip it well.
There’s the apple – aim for the middle –
Oh well…you just missed by a little.
– Shel Silverstein
I am sure we have all seen a depiction of William Tell in some way, shape, or form. He was the legendary fellow with a shot so precise that he was said to have been able to shoot an apple off a man’s head without incident! Of course this silly poem suggests that William hit the man this time – not the apple. There’s no turning back from a faux pas such as that!
As it was with William Tell, the precision of our aim can be a matter of life and death. More specifically, the precision of the aim by which we direct our own little arrows – our children. This is precisely what we will be discussing today…
Psalm 127:3-5 says:
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
What are the implications of a child being likened to an arrow?
– An arrow is a projectile weapon.
– An arrow is an object with a specific task – to hit a desired goal.
– An arrow is beneficial for both offensive and defensive purposes.
We as christians are fighting against “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12) and we are raising up the next generation that will pick up the fight after we have laid down our armor. We won’t be around forever, and one day the little people in our charge will be at the forefront of the battle. This revelation can either be horrifying or awe-inspiring. My earnest hope is that it will be the latter of the two.
Not only does our text reveal that children are like arrows, but it also implies that being a good parent is like being a skilled archer. Perhaps if we want to learn how to parent God’s way and send good soldiers out into the fight, we need to learn a little something about archery. So come along…pick up your bow, and let each of us learn how to be marvelous marksmen for the Master!
“Notice that the psalmist doesn’t say kids are like clubs or rocks. A club doesn’t take a whole lot of skill to use, and anyone can throw a rock. But if you’ve tried your hand at archery, you know it’s difficult. It’s not easy to be accurate with an arrow.” – Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Old Testament Volume 2: Psalms – Malachi
Let us consider the three things every archer must have to make a successful shot…
#1 Marksman Must: A Precise Point
Every marksman must aim his arrow.
A skilled marksman does not shoot an arrow with his eyes closed and hope for the best. Rather, he sets his sight on a precise point (his target) and aims accordingly.
A good archer is known not by his arrows, but by his aim. – Thomas Fuller
Parents, it is not how great your children are presently, but it is how great they will grow to become with proper guidance. See, merely having a child will not render us skilled parents any more than having an arrow in our possession renders us skilled archers! If we don’t know how to aim, an arrow is utterly useless in our grasp. Yet if we will learn how to aim well, we will already be one third of the way towards making a perfect shot!
Be forewarned: perfecting aim will take practice. Neither archery nor parenting are for the faint of heart. Becoming skilled archers is going to take time, diligence, and continual learning. Are we up for the challenge?
We’ve all heard the term “keep your eyes on the prize”, and we need to continually keep this in mind as we train our arrows. In a world of stress, chaos, and just plain business, it’s easy to get distracted from what’s truly important. However, a good archer can not allow distractions to get in the way of his winning shot. In the same way, parents can not allow the world to block their view of the eternal goal they desire for their child.
A child needs to know that the high achievement you wish for him is a heavenly citizenship. Everything else is pittance in comparison! He needs to know that he doesn’t have to be the best ballplayer, or the class valedictorian, or go on to have the most highly acclaimed career. Put too many expectations on your child and he will surely become dazed and confused at best, and wild and rebellious at worst. Help him to understand that godliness is his primary goal, not a slew of earthly accomplishments. Train him above all else to emulate Jesus. This is the precise point we’re going for.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. – Phillipians 3:14
How are we going to make sure our children are aimed at this mark? Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry, one-size-fits-all answer. Every child is different and it is our duty as parents to figure out how to win our unique child’s heart to the truth. We all know Proverbs 6:6…
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
It’s time we look at this passage with a new set of eyes. This verse is not saying that if we teach a child about Jesus, everything will turn out alright and that even if he strays he’ll come around in the end (though this is the typical belief). There have been many people who have been taught the truth yet went their own way and never returned! It is important to emphasize the “he” in this passage…”train up a child in the way HE should go”. In other words, find out what “clicks” with your child, and then and only then will you be able to win his heart over for Christ. Study your child. Figure out how to bring his spiritual side alive according to his unique personality and character. After all, does a skilled marksman not know his own arrows? Learn your child, and use your knowledge to eliminate his weaknesses and cultivate his strengths.
“Potential energy is the stored energy that an object posesses, either due to its position or its internal properties. There are many types of potential energy including chemical potential energy, which can be converted to electrical energy when we attach a circuit to the battery’s terminals.” – 30-Second Physics, (Consultant Editor: Brian Clegg)
All children (like arrows) have potential energy. It is our job as parents to figure out how to convert that potential energy to kinetic energy. Once they are “plugged in”, (that is: blossoming in their own unique skill set), you will begin to see the beauty of what was inside them all along.
“It is a wise father [or mother] that knows his own child.” – Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-97)
#2 Marksman Must: A Preparatory Pull
Every marksman must ready his arrow.
A successful archer knows just how much momentum to add to his arrow before he sends it from his bow. If he does not pull his arrow back far enough into the bow, it will plunge to the ground before it ever hits the target. If he pulls it back too far into the bow, it will go flying way out of bounds and will also never hit the target. Neither method works. He must add just the right amount of pressure – but not too much – for his arrow to hit the mark.
Parenting is much the same way. If we fail to pull our arrows far enough into the “bow” (i.e. by letting them have their own way all the time, or letting them continually be influenced by ungodly company) then they will surely and swiftly hit the ground. This is no way to ready an arrow for a heavenly goal. Yet on the flip side, if we pull our arrows too far into the bow (i.e. by inflicting overbearing restrictions or sheltering them too much) that child is going to be rebelliously running for the hills and will also fail to reach a heavenly goal. We need to find a happy medium between both extremes.
We can not be so foolish to think that without hard work and diligence our children will “turn out okay”. That’s not the way this whole parenting thing works…
The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. – Proverbs 29:15
Allow this truth to sink in: even a wicked man is diligent to ready his arrows for wickedness…
For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. – Psalm 11:2
The world is not resting…they train their children to do evil day and night. We certainly should not be resting…but picking up our bows like the skilled marksmen we are called to be!
One thing I have found, is that quality time can go farther with children than all the punishing in the world. The more time a child spends with his parent, the more opportunity for bonding. The stronger the bond, the stronger the desire to please his parents. [Aren’t we the same way? The more time we spend “bonding” with our Lord, the stronger our desire to please Him. It just makes sense.] Bonding brings about love, and love brings about respect. (And if a child does not learn how to respect his parents in fear and reverence as a youth, how will he ever bow his knee to an almighty God as an adult?)
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? – Hebrews 12:9
Remember, mothers…we (under our husband’s authority) are shooting our arrows in the way that they will go. What they learn now will, to a large degree, determine the course of their future.
“If men live decently it is because discipline saves their very lives for them.” – Sophocles, Antigone (442-41 B.C.)
Discipline is the most vital aspect of raising children. When I say “discipline”, I don’t necessarily mean “punishment” (though there is a time and a place for consequences when the child’s behavior is out of control). What I mean is training, training, and more training! Children need direction in spades. When we become a parent, we are essentially taking a small human and showing him/her how to be a big human. Right?? We grow their bodies by providing them with nutritious meals, we grow their souls by providing them with a healthy environment, and we grow their spirits by providing truth to them. None of these growing experiences can happen on their own…kids need their parents to continually direct them in all aspects until they learn to provide these things for themselves.
Every parent is readying their child for adulthood in some way, whether for good or evil, or for some sad place in between. Every day our actions and words are training them…these things are either drawing them closer to God, or further away from Him. What is the case with your child?
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7
#3 Marksman Must: A Perfect Projection
Every marksman must let go of his arrow.
Every day, starting with conception, we are pushing our children one step closer to life on their own. With each and every new ability learned, our children are stepping farther away from Father and Mother’s care. This is just as it should be.
“Schoolmasters and parents exist to be grown out of.” – John Wolfenden, Sunday Times, London (July 13, 1958)
Many parents wish to hold onto their children forever, but this simply can not be. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the gift of independence. Every element of training is ultimately leading to this, and we must take great care not to stand in the way of this most natural and healthy process. Children are made to grow up.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:11
“We find ourselves more taken with the running up and down, the games, and puerile simplicities of our children, than we do, afterward, with their most complete actions; as if we had loved them for our sport, like monkeys, and not as men.” – Montaigne (1580-88)
Wanting our children to stay forever young is a selfish notion. If you want your arrow to hit the mark, let it go. I have seen many a woman fall apart and fail to know what to do with herself once her children have “flown the nest”. Mothers, it is so important that you remember that your role of “wife” is to be first and foremost in your life. Yes, it is a role superior even to that of “mom”. God did not create us to be one with our children, and women who act as such are nursing an unhealthy and unspiritual obsession. Always remember that you are married to your husband, not to your offspring. Delight in the husband God has created you for! Don’t let your children’s flying the nest leave you a broken mess as the case has sadly been with so many.
Let your arrow be free to fly. Don’t despair, take joy in a job well done! Stand back, and let your heart be light as you watch your child rise to their full potential.
If the arrow does not leave the bow, it will not strike. – Ahmad Fuadi
If you would be a successful marksman and send your arrows soaring to that eternal mark…be absolutely sure that you have a precise point, a preparatory pull, and a perfect projection.
As a result,
…their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain. – Jeremiah 50:9
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.