Behold, children are a gift of the Lord
After a quick trip to Michigan this weekend to take my father-in-law back home after a visit, we returned Saturday to help my son, Spencer, finish moving into an apartment. He found a place to live that he will share with a friend from childhood. Our fifth of six children, he has lived with us the past four months after graduating from college and securing work with a company in the area. Watching him go through this transition, maturing as he learns to live out in the "real world," and being able to discuss it with him each day, has been a great joy to us.
The fruit of the womb is a reward
He is living now just fifteen minutes away. He will continue to attend church with us. Yet Miriam and I were overcome with real sadness and tears as we sent him out with the last load. That probably seems sappy to some.
But unlike the other times he has left to live at college for the year, this move has a sense of finality to it. He has no plans to return. If the current trajectory holds true, the next years could see him married and possibly moving elsewhere. So our household is permanently changed. And having him around the house relating with our youngest daughter Celia was a delight to see (well, most of the time - they still had some "bathroom wars"). Knowing how much she will miss having him there each day to share what happened at school, give friendship advice, or share a song they like is part of our sadness.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth
Celia, now a senior in high school herself, has watched all her other siblings leave home as well. Just last year, she saw her sister move out of state for grad school and then served as her maid of honor in December. All of these times of sending were prophesied of so to speak. When she was a toddler, there was a period when she, in all her chubby-cheeks-and-golden-curls glory, used to stand at the back door crying each time one of her brothers or sisters left for classes, a sporting event, or work. What happened in micro bursts is now our macro reality.
And we know our days with her are also numbered. They will fly quickly by as well. Some call those who have all their children out of the house "empty nesters." Yet, given these lines from Psalm 127, perhaps the more Biblical phraseology for believers is "empty quiver-ers".
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them
For as this psalm reminds us, our duty as parents is not to keep them quiver bound. Instead, we are to love them during the short time we have them, train them in the ways of the Lord, and prepare them for the time they will be strung to the bow and sent out into the world.
When our children were younger, we had an educational and discipleship program in our church whose motto in the Latin was Sicut Sagittae (Like Arrows) to capture this concept. Like the Father sending the Son to this world for His gospel mission, Christian parents likewise are to send their children into the world for the sake of the kingdom of God. Yet a Bible based, proper theology of child raising can never quite prepare you for the moment of heart-wrenching reality. That time you must release the taunt string and watch what happens when one of your own arrows takes flight.
They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate
When I was a younger father, I used to think this last line of Psalm 127 referred to the parents. Having a quiver full of young children, I thought it meant I could go out into the world in my parental pride and show them off. In essence, I could point to my wife and the children she bore and, in effect, say even to my enemies, "See how the Lord has blessed me."
Yet I came to see the "they" in this verse is referring not to the parents, but the children. For this line is an echo of the covenant promises given to Abraham and his spiritual descendants. When God halted Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac on Mt. Moriah, He told him, “Because you have done this, and not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of your enemies.”
So now as our quiver empties and rooms in the house seem too quiet, the pain of letting go is also the Spirit's prompting. My wife and I now watch and pray by faith. I speak with my Father in heaven about my children, knowing He understands, for He sent His own arrow into this world to conquer His enemies through suffering. I ask Him in turn to help my children follow their precious Savior's path.