Children are Like Arrows: A Fresh Look At Psalm 127

Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127, ESV)

I guess I hear lots about this passage in regards to having a “quiver full of kids” and “kids are a blessing.” I’ve heard all kinds of explanations about how many arrows would be in a Hebrew quiver at the time that this was written.  I’ve heard glad parents tell me that their hoping to “fill their quiver” and others express over the loud noise of a toddler that “children are a blessing.”

I see value having lots of kids and most certainly agree that children are a blessing, even on their worst day (and toddlers have some pretty bad days).  However, I think there is a bit more to this passage than that.  I think there are some riches not mined here when we gloss over this Psalm so glibly.  Take a minute and dwell on this text with me.

Arrows are offensive weapons. You don’t use them to defend yourself as much as you do to make a dent in the enemy. Swords can be defensive. Shields are defensive.  Spears perhaps even defensive.  Arrows are purely for offense.  You let them go.  While kids are a reflection of their parents, they are also their own individuals.  Sometimes as parents we can try to use our children to protect our own egos, relive a second childhood, or even provide all the things we missed out on.  The fact is that just like an arrow leaves the grasp of an archer, your children were meant to leave your grasp too.

Those parents who are oppressive with their own sense of pride expressed either in the need for perfection or the need to be needed risk warping their children.  Start with the end in mind. Just like archers shape branches to make their arrows because they know what an arrow needs to fly, so parents are to be intentional in shaping their kids to live beyond their home.  The arrows in the quiver of Psalm 127 aren’t meant to be kept in the quiver.  They were intended to be a deadly show of force and accuracy against the enemy.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that your children won’t remain at home forever.  Arrows aren’t intended to fill quivers.  They have a greater purpose.  Because Archers know this.  They shape their arrows with their ultimate purpose in mind (to be aimed and released).

Question: How are you raising your children for the years they will live outside your home?

More thoughts on Psalm 127 to follow this week.

3 Christmas Meditations on Being a Parent (Part 2)

2. Mary and Joseph Knew they would have to let go.

I wonder if knowing the destiny of Jesus (at least vaugly) effected the way that Mary and Joseph went about parenting? In a very real way they were forced to come to terms with letting him go.  Letting go can be one of the hardest parts about parenting.

I see parents who are clinging to their children and holding on too tight.  Sometimes this comes from a natural desire to protect their children from harm (there are other reasons).  No one wants to see their children hurt and or know that their child could be in danger.  Yet, some parents take this to an extreme by hampering their children from being able to  spread their own wings.  Sometimes we grow so accustomed to making decisions for our children, that we forget the goal of parenting is to train our children to make their own decisions.

Just like an archer has to let go of the arrow before it sails into the air and finds its mark, Parents are called on to release their children.  I think this happened in a very real way for Mary and Joseph.  They knew their was something special about Jesus from the start.  How do you raise the savior?

How would we parent differently if we knew the destiny of our children?  What if God called them to the heart of darkness a world away?  Would we be prepared to send them? Guide them? even direct them? My prayer is that he does call them there and that we are willing to let go and even send them.

To be honest each day I function on the edge of insanity.  Every time the road is wet and my wife and kids are in a car somewhere without me, I keep the phone close, praying that they are ok.  I could easily become compulsive about the safety of my children.  “No” could easily become the most dominant word in my vocabulary for no other reason than that “No” is safe.  But the joy of parenting isn’t found purely in seeking safety but in the risk of providing direction and  letting go.

3 Christmas Meditations on Being a Parent.

One of the biggest concerns of parenting is keeping you children safe.  When you become a parent the world changes.  People you don’t know become STRANGERS (with a dark and sinister motives), electric sockets become LIVE WIRES (that threaten to electrocute your kid) and the stove becomes an INFERNO of DEATH (that threatens to burn or scald your child should they even look sideways at it). Ok… Ok… Maybe I have an overactive imagination, but you get the point.  Part of parenting is keeping kids safe.  It starts with the prenatal vitamins and goes from there.

This is all fresh for me because my wife and I just had the opportunity of welcoming our son (second child)  into the world a few short days ago.  It has been an emotional journey to say the least. Everything about the birth and delivery process was about as routine and casual as having a baby can get.  But as I read the Christmas story over the last few days a few things stuck out to me like never before.

1. Taking on the Risk of Giving (Luke 2:1-7)

For all practical purposes Jesus was born in a homeless shelter.  There was no room for them in the Inn at Bethlehem.  Mary and Joseph were travelers and though it was the place of Joseph’s lineage they were most likely strangers in town.

Mary and Joseph followed God even in the midst of what must have been a scary and troubling situation.  I am inspired by their courage to trust God through temporary circumstances in order to welcome Jesus into this world.  It was risky.  But I guess that is the point I am trying to make.  Jesus didn’t come to be safe, but to save.  Jesus wasn’t Mary and Josephs kid to hold on to, but to give away to the world.

It would be easy to look at my children born under different circumstances thousands of years and miles later and think it is all different for me.  Certainly my children won’t die on a cross for the sins of the world.  But maybe the were intended for more than me.  Psalm 127 compares children to arrows.  Arrows were not intended to remain in the quiver, but to be launched at the Enemy. Maybe children aren’t the kind of blessing you keep, but they are the kind of blessing you give and that involves risk.