Raising Arrow Children
By Doug Wilson
There is no getting around it—little kids are cute. Some are cuter than others (depending, of course, on whether or not they are one’s own direct lineal descendants). The problem comes when we take this undeniable reality, and project it onto some of the statements Scripture gives us about the blessing of children. As a result, we wind up hanging on to a blessing, but perhaps the wrong one.
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 127:3–5).
Notice what the psalmist says here: Children are a heritage, a reward. But then the first metaphor is jarring, and perhaps not what we were expecting. Instead of saying that they are like a row of stuffed bunnies in a well-decorated crib, he says that children from the Lord are like a fistful of arrows. Children are arrows for the fist, and even more arrows for the quiver. For what occasion? Target practice? Costume parties?
In the ancient world, the city gates were not only where defenders of a city would face invaders, but they were also what we would call the public square. Blessed was the man who had sons who stand with him in a crucial showdown at the city council. They were shoulder to shoulder behind him, and not over on the other side. Neither were they all at home playing video games or out back smoking in the alley.
ADORABLE AND FORMIDABLE
The patter of little feet around the house is a blessing of God, one that we know by natural revelation. But the promise of formidable children is a promise given to us by special revelation. To focus on how delightful children are when they are small is to zero in on the promise, and to forget the fulfillment. Acorns are cute, but sprawling oaks weathering a storm are glorious. And when we focus on the real blessing of “adorable” children, this can be the cause of mission drift.
Kids are adorable when they are little, and when they are little, they are also largely defenseless. Because of this, good parents are constantly watching out for threats to them. This is obviously a good thing, as far as it goes, but it is not a good thing if we get stuck in that mode. If that happens, the end result is the same as what happens when you mollycoddle anything. Bringing up children as though they will be perpetually endangered is to create a circumstance where they likely will be.
ENDANGERED OR DANGEROUS?
When you look at children, do you see potential victims or potential heroes? The eye of faith sees both. We should seek to nurture and train children through the defenseless stage, knowing that on the other side of that endangered state is what we are truly after—a dangerous state.
This is a choice that all Christian parents should embrace with real integrity. Do you want to bring up endangered kids or dangerous kids? Of course, unless they are Hercules killing snakes in the crib, they are all “endangered” when they are six months old. But what is the ultimate goal you have in mind? Is it faithful service to God when they are adults? Would you like them to be smooth stones in the sling of the Son of David? Or are you just hoping they make enough money to get by, are generally nice people, and always come home for the holidays?
It would be easy to dismiss this whole question as one that has no relevance until “later.” But procrastination here is a very significant mistake. The mindset that parents have (or do not have) will be one of the main factors in how they decide how they will educate the kids, which is a decision that arrives pretty durn early. Do you drop the kids off at your district’s city gate, and hope that your enemies (and God’s) aren’t hired to do too much of the training? Or do you react the other direction and hunt for a private school that will wrap them up in cotton batting for as long as possible? Or do you want to provide them with a Jesus-centered education that will train them for the battle, the way boot camp is supposed to?
I have been intimately involved with Christian education for a number of decades, and I have to admit that I do get joy from watching little first-graders doing their Scripture recitations, for example. But the real joy is when I hear a high school graduate speak the truth wonderfully (as I have heard many do), and when I see faithful, well-educated young men and women who are ready to stand in the city gate, arrows about to make the world quiver. That’s what I’m talking about.