Of Arrows and Boomerangs
For the next three weeks, we’re going to be talking about parenting. And I’m going to be leaning heavily upon Scripture and the wisdom of others who have gone before me, since we really don’t know how this is going to go yet. We could be watching Cops and see our kids guest star on it and they’re not the cops. Who knows?
But I can’t wait for 20 years to deal with something as important as this from the Scriptures.
Do you remember the time you brought your first child home?
True or false, you were freaked out?
Jim Gaffigan- “I feel entirely unqualified to be a parent.”
I call those times being awake.
I needed to take a test to drive a car. I had to take a test to ride a motorcycle- twice. You have to get a background check to get a gun.
No test. No license. No background check. Nothing. They just give you the kid. “Good luck with that. Don’t do anything wrong or you’ll be bringing them back.” It’s just good luck! They don’t even give any advice!
I’ve got a person.
At least when I leave IKEA they give you directions what looks like a tool.. They’re not really tools, but they’re at least pretending to help. The hospital didn’t even pretend to help. Then you get the kid home and you’re trying to raise the kid, and you have no idea what to do. And you have no idea if you’re doing a good job.
Athletes know they’re doing a good job because they can look at the scoreboard.
Business people can know if they’re doing a good job because they look at the profit & loss statements.
Farmers can know if they’re doing a good job because they can measure output year over year.
How do you know if you’re doing a good job with a kid?
Let me start with these verses, and we will go from there:
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.
Or blessed is the one whose quiver is full of them. First notice this: children are a blessing. Even when they’re driving your crazy, they are a blessing. We have to remind ourselves of that all the time.
“You are driving me crazy, my little blessing!”
But Here’s the big idea of my sermon: your children are arrows.
We live in a world that tells parents and teaches them how to craft boomerangs.
Remember the goal. They are arrows.
Wooden arrows required a lot of time and skill to craft and maintain.
Your children are arrows. Shape them and care for them.
With kids, you spend a lot of time crafting and maintaining the arrow. Why? They are designed to be fired.
You aim them at a target and you let them go.
If we aim at nothing, we will hit nothing. If we have no goals, we will achieve no goals. If we have no mission, we will accomplish no mission. If we have no target, we will not hit one.
So what’s the target?
The world tells you that the target is to raise healthy kids.
Or disciplined kids.
Or kids who get good grades.
Or kids with high self-esteem.
Or kids who make a difference.
Or kids who will be successful.
And while some of those are good targets, none of them are THE target of parents who are christians.
And the worldly parents will line up and fire their arrows at those targets and compete with each other over which target they think is the most important.
But those aren’t the targets we are called to aim our kids at.
Jesus was asked what the most important commandment is. What is it?
29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
That’s the target. It doesn’t matter if we raise kids who are disciplined, or who get good grades, or who have high self-esteem, or who make a difference, or who grow up to be successful. If we have not raised our kids to love the LORD our God, we have failed as parents.
So how do we do that?
The rest of the Shemah holds the answer for us:
6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
How do we aim our arrows at the target of loving God? It starts with relationship. This all speaks of relationship. See, the quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life.
As people are going through the process of dying, no one ever says, “bring me all of my stuff.” They do say, “bring me my family and friends.”
The quality of your relationships will determine the quality of your life, and this is true in parenting as well.
And the social sciences are starting to catch up with what the Bible has said for thousands of years:
A number of generations ago, during the first and second world wars, there were many fathers and mothers who died and many children were left as orphans. And many nations created orphanages- institutions to raise the children. Fresh air. Natural light. Heathy food. Clean water. A comfortable bed. And toys to play with. The children were sickly. They did not grow and develop. And infant mortality rates were pushing 100%. The children were dying in the institutions. So they brought in some psychologists and pediatricians to do an investigation.
And here’s what they decided: “children die unless they’re loved.” That the nurses needed to take the mask off so that the children could see their face. And someone needed to hold the child. Comfort the child. Blow raspberries on their tummy. Kiss them. Talk to them. Play with them. And as soon as they did that, the children stopped dying and started living.
I’d be willing to bet that most moms here already knew this. You could have saved them a lot of time and money in research. They determined that children need a “primary care giver”. Her name is?… “MOM.”
We’ve got four kids. I know who the primary care giver is. I do give care. Rebecca is the primary care giver. She loves. Her instincts are maternal and they are God-given. People die unless they’re loved. People don’t mature unless they’re loved. People don’t develop unless they’re loved.
Two things I want to note out of this:
Institutions cannot replace relationships when it comes to development of children.
We are a church, many of us send our kids to school, some of them play on sports teams. But none of those can replace a relationship with God, with you as their parents, and their siblings.
Many Americans have not learned this lesson. How many of you know parents who are looking to put their kids in the best institution and neglecting the relationship with those children? You can put your kid in a great school, but you need a relationship. You can put your kids in a great ministry, but you need a relationship. You can find the best team with the best coach, but you still need a relationship.
And some parents are trying their hardest to find an institution to do their job as parents, but the research shows and has shown for about a hundred years that institutions do not have the capacity to replace relationship.
2. Non-relational parenting is dysfunctional parenting.
Some parents only speak to the kids when they have something for the kid to do or the kid did something wrong. That’s dysfunctional. You need to build a relationship with your kids. Technological parenting is dysfunctional. Some parents buy technology and give it to the kids so that they don’t have to have a relationship with the kids. That’s dysfunctional.
If anything gets in the place of relationship. That’s a problem for the relationship.
The scriptures have shown the importance of relationship for thousands of years, and eventually the social sciences catch up with the Scriptures.
Because many of you had great parents, you know that having a loving relationship can make good days twice as great and bad days half as bad.
This all starts with relationship. If you don’t have relationship, you cannot shape and transform your children.
Maybe you’ve heard this equation: information + application = transformation
That’s what people have generally thought for generations. Sociological data now suggests that is not true.
It’s information + application in relationship = transformation.
This is why God is relational. Not just with us, but think about his nature. God is trinity. There are three persons of the Trinity. He is a relational being. And God didn’t just drop a book out of the sky. He came down to be in relationship with us.
Some parents will use the excuse “I don’t spend a lot of time with my kids, but we spend quality time together.”
They say, “quality over quantity.” That’s a lie. Let me tell you the truth.
Quality time does not happen without quantity. You children need a relationship with you, their parents. That means they need one on one attention from you. That means you need to put down the phone, turn off the TV, put down the book, close the computer, and engage with them. Once you have that relationship, you can begin to craft them.
Your children are arrows. And for better or worse, we only get one chance to release them. Craft and maintain your arrows well. Craft them with love, time, attention, nurturing and instruction.
And aim them well. Aim them toward godliness. We’ll talk more about how to do that in a more targeted way next week. As we talk about men in the role of father.