In Psalm 127, children are referred to as arrows in the hands of a warrior and that a blessed man has a quiver full of them. Often, this analogy to arrows is interpreted as meaning we should spend their childhood aiming them carefully so when they are released into adulthood, they will fly straight to the target.
My daughter purchased a bow and arrow set a couple of summers ago. We quickly found out that arrows require a lot of work...and these were only cheap target-practice arrows. They must be kept clean. They must have their feathers kept straight. They must be kept balanced. Their tip must be kept sharp. And on top of the maintenance, they are continually getting lost...and must be searched for since small allowances don't allow for easy replacement! Higher-end hunting arrows are far more complicated and require far more care...and are far more expensive as well.
This got me to thinking about how we interpret the analogy.
The common interpretation allows that we only release the arrow once toward a target. In the real world of archery, though, the arrow is aimed, released to the target, and then retrieved to be cleaned up and used again. How might this apply to the raising of our children?
I propose that we should be training up our children in the same manner that an accomplished archer cares for his arrows: sharpening, balancing, straightening, etc. Then we should do as the archer does: carefully aim and release toward a target. Assuming the archer is a hunter, the arrow would do massive damage to its target. We should be releasing our sharpened, balanced, straightened children toward a target in the world to do damage to the kingdom of this world in the name of the Kingdom of God! But we aren't done. The archer will track down his target, recover his arrow, repair it, and use it again. So our children should be recovered to our home, "repaired" as needed, and launched again to do battle.
This is all done before they leave the nest for good. They are sent out to minister in the name of the Lord. They are recovered and rejuvenated and sent out again. Think of the experiences they will have. Think of the training they will get. Think of the ways they will see God work in their lives. Think of the mark they will leave in the world. Think of the way they will be significantly different than the other teens of this world. Think of the Gospel impact!
I will never think of the analogy of the arrow the same again....