Thursday, March 29, 2007

bows and arrows

Tuesday, one of my students stopped in to read to me from Khalil Gibran’s, “The Prophet.” He read to me three chapters, “clothing,” “laws,” and “freedom.” He was stunned by the wisdom, and the beauty with which it was expressed. I was too. I’ve heard people talk about The Prophet, but only in reference. I really am quite embarrassed that I don’t have this work memorized. I read most of the book Tuesday evening. Last night I read some to Allison, and told her that it was strange, like listening to music, that before I could go on to the next chapter, I would have to go back and read the current one again. Maybe again.
It is like staring at a beautiful painting.

Recently, my brother and sister-in-law, on whom we’ve been wishing parenthood, though there has never been any indication they wished it for themselves, called to announce the expected ETA of their firstborn. There may have been an article in the London Times. I didn’t actually see it my self.
The announcement that you’re expecting your first child is an outrageously big event. A couple ponders when and how to tell whom. For the life of me, I can’t remember telling my parents when we found out that Jack was on the way. This seems very odd to me, because it is typical that we remember every burp and diaper change for the first, and don’t even have any pictures of their younger siblings. Allison mentioned to Molly that she was disappointed that we had so few pics and video of her as a baby, yet had so many of Jack. Molly said, “oh that’s understandable. When you have your first baby, you don’t know if you’ll ever have any more so you take millions of pictures.” Simple wisdom from the underphotographed bald beauty. We’ve made up for it though. There are more pics of her from the past month than of both boys’ lifetimes combined.
So why would I not remember how I announced Jack’s birth? I do remember Will’s though. I sent a simple email to Mom and Dad with the statement, “children are a reward from the Lord. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.”
I’ve found out that three arrows pretty much make for a full quiver. But I wouldn’t trade any of them. I used that passage to announce the impending family enlargement because it made me think about how Dad used to tell us he was going to sell us back to the Indians. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.

I began to think more deeply about the metaphors here when I was reading Tuesday night. Gibran describes me as the bow that shoots that quiver full of arrows:

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I think I could ponder and ramble all day on the thoughts that this brings to mind. I’ve always said that I operate best as a soldier. I march when I’m told where to go. I was a very teachable guitar student, a very coachable ballplayer. I don’t operate as well when I’ve got decide where to go. Being in charge is a terribly scary prospect, no matter how confident I am in my ideas and convictions. I desire to be an instrument of the dreamer of dreams, rather than the dreamer of dreams.
Of course, being a Father must be the ultimate in being in charge. The responsibility is enormous, the influence further reaching than we can imagine. What an enormous relief it is to be reminded that I’m not the archer, only the bow. I don’t have to aim, only to bend. I am used to create potential energy to thrust the arrow. I provide a place for the arrow to rest as it is aimed. But I don’t aim it. In fact, no matter how many arrows are in the quiver, I’m fairly worthless without the archer.

I also am amazed and humbled to find that the more I am willing to be bent and used as an instrument, how many arrows are found lying along the path. Arrows that have been dropped from their own quivers. Perhaps fired from an unstable bow, or a bow that tried to bend itself and missed the mark. In fact, I know bows that have no quivers of their own, but are used constantly to fire previously misguided, cast aside, or unwanted arrows.
I guess the responsibility of fatherhood is not reserved only for fathers. Yes, apparently there is a special blessing for those whose quivers are full, but it must be much more important to be a stable, bendable bow.

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