“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.” Psalm 127:3-4
Though I am an empty nester, I get to hang out with mamas of littles in my Bible study leadership role. I often stop myself from saying to these precious, hard working women: “cherish the moments, they go so fast.” It seems like such a true statement for a woman in her 50s who looks back and cannot believe how fast little ones grow up. But I know those words ring a little hollow. How do we cherish all the hard work of parenting? And is this really the best advice? Could I have saved up the memories better by recognizing more, in real time, how fleeting they were?
As I read Psalm 127, the Lord transforms my “missing those years with littles and wishing I could somehow go back” to His greater vision for my children.
Solomon, the author of this psalm, is meditating on a home built by the Lord himself. He says that no amount of toiling, early rising or all nighters, can accomplish what the Lord can when we trust Him to be the builder of our home. Trusting God to build means he gets to design the home! We do still exhaust ourselves in the work, but according to His building plans. Trusting the Lord as builder means surrendering our hopes and dreams to His better ones. He, the Creator and Sustainer, the One who is redeeming His creation from the very pit of death and ruin and decay is about far more than the golden days of children in the home. His plans are more ambitious, and they are going to take both our hard work and our surrendered sleep, which He gives to those He loves!
This meditation on God as home builder leads Solomon to consider children. He explains that they are a heritage and a reward or gift from the Lord himself. Since He creates them and ordains their days, He gets to decide when and to whom they are born. Solomon goes on to compare children to arrows in the hands of a warrior. An arrow is an offensive weapon that pierces a distant place. Arrows out pace us, expand our reach, go farther and faster than we can. In his day, Solomon was likely considering the ability of children to defend the family. They were not to just remain cute and snuggly babies. They were to grow up to defend and protect and secure the family in the days to come.
What if we thought of our children, not as treasures to cling to tightly, but as treasures to launch? What if we considered them arrows that will pierce new communities, new workplaces, new careers, new ministries, and new families… places we could not imagine reaching? What if we considered them arrows that will defend and protect and secure people and places we cannot?
In their mid-late 20s my children have fully developed lives. They are part of new families through their marriages. They are part of neighborhoods and churches. They have careers that I could have never orchestrated for them. When they learned to drive, I remember thinking “this is great, their lives are so full that I simply cannot meet my callings and theirs with one car and one driver anymore!” Now they not only need their own car, they need their own home outside of mine to meet the callings on their lives. As I consider what they are doing today, they out pace me in every metric. I loved snuggling them close and dressing them cute and watching them grow. I cherish the memories of those days as a family of four in our home and count the days until we are all together for the next gathering. But, truly, there is no greater joy than watching them live lives of meaning and purpose and love and joy. There is no greater joy than seeing them pierce the places God has launched them with their smiles, humor, friendship, wisdom, love and witness to a faithful God.
Maybe the best admonition any of us could give to a new mom or dad is not that they should grip more tightly to this time in their lives, but that they should really be fired up about the launch ahead. They are fashioning arrows of witness, arrows of love, arrows of wisdom, arrows of intellect, arrows of hospitality, arrows of self-sacrifice, arrows of joy and faith and hope that will outpace them for the glory of God! And those arrows ARE the offensive weapon God graciously shoots out of our nest to secure new places and times from an enemy whose goal is to steal, kill and destroy. Surely he will build their houses too, as part of His redeeming of His creation. God’s word puts a whole new spin on what it means to cherish our children. Who will you encourage with these ancient words today?
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Offices by Biblica, Inc.™