We are a loving instrument that God uses to channel instruction, discipline, love, submission and Godly purpose into the lives and hearts of our children. We don't desire obedience alone....although parenting begins with requiring obedience through correction....but it moves quite quickly into shaping a posture of servant hood toward Jesus....getting at the heart. For obedience without the heart is like obeying the law and forfeiting the new covenant through Jesus Christ. God wants so much more of us....and our children.
Our children are arrows....God's arrows...in our quiver.
"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;" Psalm 127:4-5
What makes an arrow useful?
It must be sharp. A dull arrow will achieve nothing.
It must be straight. A crooked arrow goes astray. It can't reach the target.
It needs to be made of the right material, the right kind of wood for the purpose at hand. Hunting arrows or target arrows....but when made from scratch...they start from saplings and then the sapling is seasoned....it is dried and prepped. It is a process.
The right feathers must be prepared, applied and positioned...perfectly. For this is imperative if the arrow is going to fly.....all alone toward the end goal.
Each arrow is distinguished among the others. It is crested. No two arrows are exactly alike. Cresting adds beauty to the finished arrow.
As the arrow is released from the strings of the bow, from the hand that holds it tightly.....the hands that have invested time and energy into it, the hands that gently, lovingly, made the arrow, the hands that so desire for the arrow to reach its target......the arrow sails and lands right where it is pointed. Bulleseye!
As parents, we are the bowman put in charge over the arrows. We hold the strings that hold the arrow. It is our job, our calling from God to train our children in the way of the Lord. So that when the arrows are released, they go forth swiftly, unwavering, with purpose toward the calling that God has on their lives.
My heart's cry is to train my children in all of God's ways. That they may know God, not just recite Bible verses (which is great!). Not just know each and every Bible story (again great!)....all of these are part of training and need to be part of the foundation, but I long for my children to understand the heart of God. I want them to OWN their faith and walk it out. They need to be able to have a faith in God that allows them to obey that which they can't see physically.....this begins with obeying that which they can see.....us parents. It can't just be in their heads. The heart has to be involved. That they would hear God when He calls and that they would desire to follow Him...yes, that is what I long for for my children. That they would set their minds on the things of His kingdom, not on what this earth has to offer. That is my prayer.
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. 'For in these I delight,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 9:23-24
Yesterday, I had one of these teachable moments with my 9 year old. It was a moment that we mommies cherish. I wanted to sit in that moment for a long time and savor the goodness of God with my son, Seth. (He didn't sit with me for long...but long enough to open his heart and mind and listen.) I sat with God afterwards...thanking Him for this teachable moment, praying that the truth would take hold, be deeply rooted.
As my children get older, parenting moves from correction for actions (Proverbs 29:15) into correction for attitudes. (Ohhh, this is so much harder in my opinion.) You see a stronghold in your children: pride, envy, anger, selfishness, etc....and you know that that needs to be "dried" from that arrow, or else that arrow will be useless for God.
Here's how my teachable moment played out.
Seth is the second oldest. He has no fear and with that comes pride. He likes to be cool and accepted by others (don't we all??) He isn't an overachiever, but he likes to perform well. He loves the Lord. (Thank you Jesus!) And has learned to open God's word and let God speak to his heart on things that trouble him. This has been a process...but one in which we are now seeing fruit.
Our boys race motocross...well hare scrambles...if you are familiar with motorbikes. It's a long story...but being a mommy to 5 (1 in heaven) boys, we came across this sport as a way to not constantly be a family who "divides and conquers" so our children can be in sports. It is a family sport for us and we love it! Our backyard has become a practice track with jumps and all. Seth rides almost everyday and his best friend: J- a wonderful, God loving young man, rides, as well. J, Seth's friend, just recently got a new dirt bike. A really big dirt bike. And then last week, we upgraded Ben's bike to a bike the same size as J's.
This injured Seth's pride. He struggled with feeling inferior to Ben and J. He struggled with having the "smaller" bike. Seth has a great bike, that he too, got this year, and it is perfect for his size.....and mighty powerful. When Seth rides, he is in control of that bike.....it doesn't control him.
So, that set the scene for the movings in Seth's heart. Haven't we all been in that place at one time, as adults?..We have a great home...but the neighbor's home is just a bit bigger and beautifully decorated....we get a new shirt.....and our friend gets a new outfit....shoes and all.....God tells us to be content (in many countries, people don't even own more than one shirt!) But we compare, we are envious.....we desire the best.
Well, J came over to play and ride. J didn't bring his bike and rode an extra one of ours. But he also rode Ben's new bigger bike a lot. Discontentment started to creep in Seth.....he became jealous of the boys...and Ben's new bike. Shortly after the riding began, Seth was in the house gently crying, but with a BIG attitude.
m-"Seth what is the matter?"
S-"The boys are riding Ben's bike and they won't let me ride...they keep laughing....and making me feel bad."
m-"Why do you want to ride Ben's bike? You're bike is great."
s-"Well, Ben's bike is bigger....they keep talking about it. It is making me really mad....and hurting my feelings. I'm not riding anymore."
m-"Why are your feelings hurt? You have an awesome bike that you ride so well? They don't make you feel mad...you are in charge of your own feelings....not them."
He then pouts, which turns into a young man temper tantrum, crosses his arms and you can just see the barriers climbing up all around him. The strongholds are casting their hold. Seth needs to hear from God right now and I need to direct him to the feet of Jesus....
In our two older boys, when we see sin wrapping itself tightly around the heart of our children....the only way we know to combat that sin is to get them into God's word. I sent Seth off to his room to sit and pray, open his Bible and see what God had to say about his attitude.
This isn't new for them. Before we began doing this.....I showed them how to do it...modelling. I believe it is invaluable in training our children.
A couple minutes later, Seth emerges from his room and comes downstairs. I see his posture hasn't changed. Mission hasn't been accomplished. But the conversation continues:
m-"So, did God speak anything to your heart?"
s-(arms are still tightly crossed, pout on his face) "No"
m-"Where did God lead you in the Bible? What did you read?"
m-(whooa...that's a deep one...not exactly where I thought he'd go...but I probe deeper.) "Did God speak to your heart?"
m-"Why don't you go back upstairs and try again. Just be quiet with God and ask Him to search your heart in prayer."
You know when we are outside God's will with our attitudes. We are in turmoil. It doesn't feel good. We are outside the safety zone and want desperately to be back in the fold. Sometimes, we know what we need...to sit at Jesus's feet, but we fight it. We don't let down our will to see His.
Seth needed gentle coaxing and encouraging back to Jesus's feet. God was giving me this simple moment to plant a seed in Seth's heart upon an issue that is not new for Seth.
m-"So, did God speak to your heart?"
(his arms are now at his side.....his body has relaxed....the softness is returning in his face.)
m-"Did He give you a verse or speak to your heart?"
s-"not exactly....but I know I need to take my thoughts and put them away."
m-(the door is open.....Wow...I am excited...) "Put them away....that is great. What does that mean?"
s-"I don't know....get rid of them?"
m-"That is great. Can I give you a verse that is on my heart?" Willingness...he must be willing to receive if this seed is going to take root.
Ok....Lord....guide me......I have the words "acknowledge me" in my thoughts....I go and grab my Bible and look acknowledge up in the concordance...I have parts of the verse floating in my head....
"In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:6
m-"Seth, do you know what it means to acknowledge God in all things?"
m-"It means to observe God in everything...see Him everywhere....get to know Him as you are living....making decisions, forming attitude....feeling certain ways.....dealing with friends who have bigger dirt bikes. Do you know what I mean?"
s-"I think so."
m-"Can I give you another verse?"
"Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:
m-"yes, we need to put away our thoughts...but even better we need to replace them with Godly thoughts. When pride enters in, when envy enters in, discontentment....we need to take those feelings and thoughts and replace them or put them away. We need to ask Jesus to fill our minds with contentment, gratitude, thanksgiving...for what we have and what our friends have. When you put your mind on God and His ways....the focus is off of us. God then gives us that contentment He wants us to have. We need to think about Jesus in everything. Do you get it?"
s-(totally relaxed now) ">Yeh, mom. I get it. Thanks."
With a hug and a kiss...out the door he goes to ride.
(Later, I have him write the verses on index cards and put them in his Bible...to meditate and read daily...to hide in his heart.)
And there I sit with God....thanking him for this teachable moment with Seth. This moment so purposeful and useful in shaping that arrow...my son. The precious thought life that we all deal with. It is hidden within, and when the thoughts are on us and this world.....it often isn't pretty. And the lesson was for me, as well.....my thought life....my discontentment at times.....the conviction..."to acknowledge God in everything!"
So, another day in arrow making. This day proved to be productive. I'll savor this moment and take each opportunity I have to sharpen those arrows....for the day comes ever so quickly when the bow will have to be released and my precious arrows will be flying.
Seth after finishing his race on 7/27.