“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.”
This past week was a blur. I had the opportunity to be with my GlocalNet family in Texas and do some vital work for our family of churches and spend the back half of the week on a spring break/Daniel’s birthday present trip to an indoor water park. Productive and fun.
I noticed some things at the water park that was concerning and affirming other observations I’ve made in recent years. Kids were disrespectful to their parents and other adults and kids. Kids were demanding. Kids were, while being demanding, being given in to. Kids didn’t say “yes sir” or “yes ma’am”…you know appropriate honor. Lack of respect. Entitlement. No sense of honor and shame.
Buford Harold and Margaret Ann were not perfect parents by a long shot. My siblings and I were not perfect by any stretch…although I came close 😉
But respect to elders was taught and demanded. We earned everything above necessities (I worked and paid for my own college education, car, clothes etc. when I entered manhood). We learned how to honor proper authority and how to show honor.
Jennifer and I are far from perfect parents. My boys are FAR from perfect. Often we feel like all we do is ride them harder than maybe we ought to. Then I noted, while at the waterpark, the comparison between the manifested hell of some of these dad gum minions running around and realized that in comparison, our boys were solid gold. They never demand anything. They ask and don’t presume. They honor people properly. My boys are required to work at home as their contribution to the function of our home, so they know how to earn and they don’t have a sense of entitlement. I’m proud of that.
This comparison got me to thinking and my mind ascending to writing this post. I asked Jennifer to help me remember what I was telling her so I could record it here. I was thankful and I was filled with a sense of a “moment” in which there was something worth capturing.
What was the difference that caused the stark contrast? Here it is: It’s the understanding of Psalm 127:3-5. The writer is using a metaphor to teach us a reason God gives children. He gives them as arrows not idols. God gives children as mission gifts not objects of undue attention or affection.
Arrows for a warrior do what? They extend the range of that warrior and make that warrior more effective farther away. Children are arrows in the quiver of the man and woman on God’s mission (which for all of us in Christ is all of us in Christ). In other words, God gave us children as gifts for the mission of God’s glory in discipling the nations by training them to be radical followers of Jesus. Children are not idols by which we gain some sort of worldly significance. Children are not idols by which we live vicariously through to achieve some thing we didn’t as a kid. Children are not idols we dress to look a part so as to fit in to our chosen social category. Children are mission gifts not idols.
Here are a few ways to prepare out kids to be the mission gifts they are.
1. Teach honor and respect.
The rest of the world gets honor and respect. Many in the west don’t. We are viewed as arrogant and rude. Mostly that observation is correct. It’s not old school to demand a kid honor their elders with proper titles like: “ma’am” or “sir” rather than the adult’s first name.
One of the things I have noticed among my friends in other countries is that these friends assign titles of honor to me for their children and demand they use those titles. I’m an uncle to more kids around the world that I ever imagined I’d be. I’m an uncle to 1 here in the states. I’m an uncle to loads in other countries. That’s good and right and honorable.
The bible teaches honor and shame. We need to up our game in teaching honor and shame to our kids and demanding they practice. It will make them globally able to engage well.
2. Make kids work and earn.Refuse to create entitlement.
I’ve heard that mess about wanting to make it easier for my kids than it was for me. That’s trash. That’s also how we create soft kids and kids who can’t work their way out of a paper bag.
I’ve watched kids in other countries with nothing but their one set of clothes and a some sticks be happier than kids with garbage bags of clothes and rooms of toys. Point? Stuff is not a guarantor of happy.
These kids we’d likely feel bad for know how to live, survive and thrive. Most kids in the states can’t even make themselves a meal or wash their clothes.
I vividly remember laughing this one dude out of the dorm when I was in college because his momma had always washed his clothes for him and he didn’t know how. That’s embarrassing. That guy was out of mommy’s little world and it was crushing him. Come on man.
Make kids do chores. Make them earn their keep at home. It won’t be so hard when they have to do it for real then. And they may just become better global citizens.
3. Don’t let kids be the center of our world.
Some, whether by action or by word, have somehow led the kids to believe it’s all about them. Parents don’t know what to do when the kids are gone. Can I just tell you? The boys asked what me and mom would do when they went off to school or the military or whatever the other day. My unwavering and not having to think response left them a little stunned: “Go to the lake every Saturday with our new boat and lay in the sun and water ski until we can’t stand up and then go out to eat on the way home because I’m no longer paying for your school and food and clothes. Freedom!!! Then we are traveling overseas to serve the kingdom in some way as often as we can.”
I love my boys but they have not been given to us to make into idols that require all God’s resources. My boys are to be arrows that extend our range for the sake of the kingdom. I am to live in a way that trains and actively train them to be arrows not idols.
Please don’t misunderstand. We should love our babies. I do. You will often catch me hugging and placing a kiss on the head of my almost 16 year old football playing oldest son as well as pinching on and hugging on my middle and baby boys. I love my babies. They’ll be my babies even when they bring the grandkids over for a visit with G-Daddy. But you’ll also catch me treating them like the men they are by demanding they be helpful, serve and honor people. They need to be able to function around grown men from all around the world.
There is so much more, but this is a good start to get us all thinking and making changes if we need to.
How are you treating you kids like arrows rather than idols? Or are they more like idols than arrows? I’m sure this may look different for each of us, but these are a few items that should likely be present in all our kids.