A Fast Arrow
An arrow that is straight and well aimed will strike its target, but what effect will it have? If it fails to pierce the surface and bounces off without even making a mark, the arrow has failed. It has flown with precision, but without the speed necessary to make an impact.
An arrow that strikes hard, that has an effect on the world, is sleek and sharp. Its shaft is lightweight, and its point is honed to a fine razor’s edge. It strikes deep, and it carries out its mission.
This arrow is a child who is energetic and enthusiastic, not indulged or lazy. He is disciplined and self-motivated, carrying within his heart a burning desire to fulfill his vision. He does not carry the burdens of the world, because he is lifted up by faith, trusting in God to meet all of his needs. He flies to his target with full confidence that God will prepare it beforehand, so that when he strikes, hearts will be ready to be transformed by the presence of one who carries the light of God’s saving grace.
You can make these arrows by teaching your children discipline, by training them to love the benefits of exercise, both physical and spiritual. Do they love the word of God, or is it a burden? Do they arise on their own in the morning, or do you have to roll them out of bed? Can they schedule and complete their assignments, or do you have to shadow them to make sure they do all their chores and homework?
Some children have a very hard time with being self-motivated. With Mommy and Daddy in the house to cart them around, clean up after them, and monitor their “to do” checklists, they can turn into slugs who just slither from place to place, doing what they have to do simply to keep from being stepped on.
You don’t want slugs in your house. Yes, help them set goals and priorities, but also teach inner reliance, allowing your children to fail and suffer the consequences of failure if necessary. If you prop them up and force success, success will not be their own; it will be surrogate, a poor substitute that will bring lazy hearts to any future effort.
Healthy children need no crutches; they need impetus, fire burning within. Light that fire through inspiration, not indulgence. Set an example and exhort them to follow your lead, to be imitators of you as you are of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). That’s how you make fast, hard-striking arrows. With hearts, minds, and bodies honed to sharp edges, they will be ready to make a great impact on the world for Christ.
An Enduring Arrow
In order to strike a target that is far away, an arrow has to be able to maintain its flight, cutting through wind and other elements without losing direction. A long flight requires that the warrior aim high, giving the arrow a trajectory that will follow a well-planned arc. Such an arrow is sculpted from hard wood, tacked with stiff feathering, and constructed with a well-balanced plan.
Sometimes life is difficult, and serving God requires weathering storms that buffet even straight, accurate arrows. In many pursuits, our children will learn to temper speed with patience, to pace themselves when their goals lie far in the future.
As counselors for our growing children, we know the value of endurance, the courage to go on even if trials arise. Having lived a few more years than they, we have come through long nights and we have seen the light of morning. We have viewed dark difficulties in hindsight, helping our patience and endurance to mature. Sitting in the well-lit perspective of the present time and pondering a trial from the safe platform of memory, we are able to take a deep breath and marvel at how God has guided us through shadowy days.
The shorter our years on earth, the longer a season of pain feels, making youthful suffering difficult to endure. Our children may not have witnessed God’s provision. They may not have been empowered to defeat a tenacious enemy or comforted after losing a battle in a long war. That’s why it is up to us to help our children learn how to endure in their youthful struggles.
Although we should rescue them from immediate danger, allowing them to struggle at times may bring lasting benefit, especially as we bring encouragement and reminders of how God has helped us in the past. A child who is pulled out of every potential snare will be weak, both in mind and body, unfit for the turmoil he will surely face in the outside world.
Just as the chick must fight his way out of the egg to gain strength for life, and just as a soldier must train his body in a controlled environment in order to face an unpredictable battle, so should our children be trained in the safety of home, preparing them for the shifting winds of the world.
There is an old adage that has helped me through many seasons of storms. “What I have learned in the light, I will not doubt in the dark.” Through a number of difficult tests, I have learned that God really does care about me, and like a branding iron, I emblazon my mind with deep impressions of God’s wonderful provisions. Then, when the next test comes and pain sets in, I arouse those carefully stored memories and meditate on them, bringing soothing relief and strength to go on. I have learned of God’s love in the light of day, and those memories will illumine even the darkest of nights.
Sharing memories like these will help your children endure. They may not have a legacy of their own, a storehouse of past rescues from harm or comfort in times of trouble. Yet, they have a resource, a library of sorts, your recollections of God’s grace. Spread them freely. Even if the stories seem to get old, they will not be forgotten, and they will seem like a fresh breeze when they come to mind during a season of distress.
Pressure hardens. Cold tightens. Dryness makes tough. Bitterness makes even coarse bread taste sweet. As the writer of Hebrews said, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Unless our children are made into hardened arrows, they will not be ready to face the world.
Still, we want to maintain balance. Home is a place of comfort and joy as well as a training field. We don’t want to unnaturally force difficult times on our children, but we do want them to endure through the everyday trials of life. And we should also require discipline in body and mind, plotting a course that seems natural, a way of life.
I require that my older children set their alarms and wake up on their own. They know when they are supposed to make their beds, exercise, come to morning devotions, and begin their schoolwork. They follow a reasonable schedule, not a boot camp regimen. Though we don’t march them out to the scream of a drill sergeant, we do see to their compliance by doling out consequences for missing the mark. As the schedule becomes routine, it trains them to know no other way of life.
We hope that our arrows carry that discipline to their own homes someday. We are aiming high, knowing that most goals worth gaining lie at the end of arduous journeys. May God help them see the light and remember its promises even during the lonely nights.
More to come next Sunday.
Categories: Thoughts from the Heart