Releasing Arrows

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This week marks a major transition in our household. Not only are we preparing to dismantle our idyllic home here in the wee town by the North Sea to launch into the great unknown of a new chapter in South Asia, but we are also releasing two children from our family nest—one flying east to begin boarding school and the other going west to grow for a season under the mentorship of his uncle.

Even as I write a lump rises in my throat at the thought of it. These are my babies. How can I care for and protect them if they are on the other side of the world from me? These are my babies. Through all the terrifying transitions of our life of faith, the constancy of their presence under my sheltering arms has provided sweet security. I can’t count in how many different places my husband and I have met each other’s gaze over their sleeping heads and whispered to each other, “At least we still have them.”

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
Psalm 127:3-5

But the point of parenthood has never been to have or to hold them. During one of the heated debates of our courtship, I remember laying out my vision for wanting loads of children (which, my wise husband-to-be pointed out, was a wild impracticality considering the pilgrim life we knew God was calling us to). Our children would be arrows, gifts from God for us to hold near for a time but for the purpose of preparing them to be shot out into the world. If we did our job well, they would one day be equipped to go places where we were not and to fight battles that we could not. Their presence and their work in the world would be an extension of our own, just as our presence and work in the world are an extension of God’s.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
Luke 1:46-49

While the Lord painfully blocked my ambitious dreams of a baker’s dozen, the longing, the waiting, the losing, and the miraculously gaining taught me to receive each of these gifts by faith. My heart found words in the prayers of Hannah, Elizabeth, and Mary, who overflowed with gratitude in the kindness of God to remember His promise to His daughters and grant them seed. The ability to bear children went from simply being a given to being a gift.

They may be leaving my home, but they are merely spreading out into His.

And then the realities of parenting kicked in. Toddler tantrums and teenaged silence rattled my confidence, leading to despair that these arrows would ever fly straight. In fact, they seemed more bent on piercing my heart than putting a dent in the darkness of the world around. At the end of another seemingly fruitless day of teaching, disciplining, nurturing, and downright pleading, I have often unloaded my bedtime discouragement to my husband. But his steady voice repeatedly calls me back from reacting in fear to raising these children in faith. They are God’s from start to finish. He entrusts them to us for the process but at the same time calls us to trust them to Him for the product.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Matthew 12:46-50

So now I find myself embarking on a new challenge of faith. Having received them by faith and raised them by faith, God is now leading me to release my children by faith. Far from the profound relief I imagined I would one day feel when they were finally ready to launch into the world, I find myself wanting to cling to them, selfishly unready to give up the joy of having them near and (dare I admit it?) the sense of worth that comes of their needing me. At a time when so much of my world is uncertain and in transition, I feel the urge to hold them back as a personal security measure. I could take comfort in the fact that I will always be their mother and that the time will come again when they fly home to me. But that misses the point.

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Luke 2:48-49

Like Mary with her Son, I need to remember who their real Father is. How quickly I forget and try to exert my rights over them as if they were my own! They belong to Him; of course they need to be about His business! They may be leaving my home, but they are merely spreading out into His.

When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
John 19:26-27

Releasing my children is not a denial of their significance to me. Rather, it is an affirmation of my faith in our Father—faith that He who started a good work in them will be faithful to complete it, and faith that He who is doing His needed work in me will hold me to the finish.

10 thoughts on “Releasing Arrows”

  1. I love the thought of releasing them into God’s wider home… We walked this road, and so far God has been more than keeping them by his grace and power: 3 married kidz and 6 grandsons later. Bless you for sharing this, I remember the angst.

  2. I can understand your apprehensions. One of the hardest things we do is parents is let go and trust that what we have taught them will be sufficient in their life. Especially now as a grandfather to continue praying for my children and grandchildren is of utmost importance. Blessings on this new journey!

  3. Oh, so REAL. And such is life on this earth. Now I have a lump in my throat knowing that you and Ernest are beginning this new journey of releasing. Not for one minute do I want to tell you it happens and life goes on. Truly the hardest thing that Ron and I have experienced – BUT the grace of God. It just keeps on and on and on. Bless your hearts and I will be praying. Seems like my list is growing with this request.

  4. Wow! Full of feeling and reality, but smothered in genuine faith. My mother’s heart cries with you at this bittersweet time!
    You and Ernest have been such great examples of what it means to die to self, follow Christ, and live for something so much greater than anything this world can offer… they have seen it and have been impacted for life…more than you realize.
    I know He will give you the grace you need to trust Him daily with their lives, and this new chapter of yours.
    I love you my friend, and will be praying for you.

  5. It is a sad and exciting time in equal measure, and the beginning of a new stage in your relationship with your son and daughters; by leaving, they have a chance to become more fully their own person. Love is proven in the letting go . . . right?

    1. Well said, Sandra. I suppose the proof of the pudding comes now, meaning this is when we finally get to see what they are made of and what our relationship really is because it will be based on what they choose, not what we dictate. I honestly don’t know how God manages to give us so much freedom, especially when we consistently turn around and blame Him for what we do with it.

      So lovely to hear from you!!

  6. Lovely, well-spoken article. I have been absolutely amazed at what God has done with the sending out of my first two children. It hasn’t always been smooth, but it certainly has been exciting and full of adventure. Their scope of influence has been beyond where I could ever go. And the conversations they have had with unlikely people has served to fan the flames of their own faith. Because of their upbringing our kids are more than aware that they were created purposefully for a time and place such as this. May they grow and serve well under the eye of their Father.

    1. Oh, what a lovely glimpse of things to come, Tina. Thanks for that breathe of fresh air from one who is two steps ahead in this race of life. May our Lord continue to make Himself known to and through them.

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