I love to spend time in the Psalter. The Book of Psalms is a collection of songs and prayers. Some have referred to it as ancient Israel’s hymnal. The poetry of the psalms is compact and profound – they work like pictures for the mind and emotions; and we know a picture is often worth a thousand words. Psalm 127 is one of the “Songs of Ascent,” which can be thought of as pilgrim songs for the road up to Jerusalem. The last two verses of Psalm 127 speak of the blessings of fatherhood in terms that an archer would understand:
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
When they contend with their enemies in the gate. (NIV)
If we’re not careful, the mind-picture can be easily glimpsed over and some of its deeper nuances can be missed. How does this brief snapshot of a warrior teach us about fatherhood? What is the similarity between children and arrows? Why is this image significant?
In order to understand a warrior image, we have to think like a warrior. So let me ask you a warrior question: Of what purpose are your arrows? The work of the battle-archer is surely not to parade around showing off his collection of darts all polished in their case. Nor is his task to just lug them around for no reason, snagging them on the furniture and getting frustrated with their nuisance-value. For the warrior – if you think about it – arrows don’t actually fulfil their purpose in the quiver, but rather when they are loosed from the bowstring and sent to their target.
In the quiver, arrows are the archer’s responsibility. The warrior’s job, while his arrows are in the quiver, is to make sure they are straight, strong, and sharp. Then they have the best chance to fly true and effectively meet their intended purpose when the time comes. For the warrior this takes diligence, care, and an understanding of the composition of his arrows. Some woods snap easier than others, and it takes a little experience to know just where to apply pressure to keep everything in line, and so anticipate a good result.
So if children are like arrows in this particular image, then the corresponding ideas apply. Raising children means taking responsibility to give them the best chance of reaching their potential. Know them, understand them, guide and strengthen them. Apply straightening pressure wisely, not as a random show of power. Do everything you can to teach them to think sharply. As you invest time with your young arrows, remind yourself that they are intended for a purpose. And your task is to prepare them, to encourage them to fly true to their target. No two are the same, and each one will find a different trajectory when you finally loose them from the bow, but as a favourite professor of mine used to say: “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.”
Copyright © 2010 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.