A Lesson from Archery: Be the Arrow, Not the Archer

The Arrow and the Song
The Arrow and the Song, Longfellow

Aiming to be Archers?

Several years ago, when my eldest son was around the age of seven or so, he and a few of his friends took up archery lessons. The bow and arrow was a pretty big deal around our home for a while, and I had to keep my head up to keep from becoming a victim of “William Tell” and his cohorts. It was either that or stick an apple on top of my head, shut my eyes, and pray for the best!

Their instructor was an Olympic champion in archery, and she taught them many wonderful lessons. They progressed well over the time they participated in this sport, moving from long bows to compound bows.

I was a little bit fascinated with archery at the time my son took lessons, and I learned quite a bit about a sport that I had never even truly considered a “sport” before.

Lessons from Archery Included:

  • The importance of matching the arrows to the bow. Mismatched arrows may not fly correctly or accurately.
  • Never “dry fire” a bow. “Dry firing” means that you shoot it without an arrow in place. This can cause lots of damage to the bow, because when you pull back the string energy is stored with the bow, and without the mass of the arrow to absorb the elastic energy released, that energy is instead dissipated through vibration of the bowstring and the bow limbs, and can do significant structural damage to the bow itself.
  • It is important to attain the proper balance point on an arrow that is “completed” – which is an arrow that has been “fletched” with the point attached. “Fletching” is the fin-shaped aerodynamic stabilization device attached on arrows, crossbow bolts, or darts. It’s typically made from light, semi-flexible materials such as feathers, and each piece of the fin is a “fletch”,  also known as a flight or feather. The person who attaches fletchings to the shaft of arrows is called a fletcher. This balance point is very precise, and is located about 10-16% of the distance forward from the center of the arrow toward the point. If your arrow is too lightweight, it may cause the archer to essentially “dry fire” the boy.

These were just a few of the many lessons, and as you can see, there is much more to this sport that you may have imagined.

My son with his new compound bow after earning the “Arrow of Light” in Boy Scouts.

Biblical Lessons Of Archery

But what fascinated me even more was how the lessons that I learned about archery had many Biblical applications and allusions, as well.

Biblical imagery abounds of the bow as the symbol of power and strength. This is not unusual, because at that time, the bow and arrow was one of the main weapons of battle, and those with the most skill in using this weapon were often the most feared and powerful.

 

In the world today, much is made of taking control of your life, making things happen, being the “master of your own destiny/fate”.  Almost everyone strives to become the most powerful and the most “feared” – or at least the most admired in today’s world. This is the definition of “success” in our culture today, and I’m afraid we have it all backwards.

We seem to have taken this much used metaphor of archery, both in historic and modern times, and twisted it into an analogy that allows us to believe that each of us has the ability to become the powerful archer, mastering and bending our bows at will unto our own strength; pointing, aiming, and firing our ammunition; and then believing that our arrows will strike the target at which we aim.

Or, at the very least, as in the case of Longfellow, we hope that our arrows will fall where they might help or at least do as little damage as possible.

However, we are sadly mistaken and disillusioned.

The Fallacy of the Archer vs the Arrow

I have learned through studying Scripture that this belief that we are the master archer with the ability to sink our arrows into the right target is a faulty analogy, or a fallacy, if you will.

We are absolutely wrong in assuming the comparison of ourselves to the powerful, skilled archer.

Much like the poem above, written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, when we assume the role of archer, there is still so much that is completely out of our control.

Though we may think we have mastered the sport, we are never truly “Master of Our Own Destiny”. This is a lie that Satan the Liar wants us to believe throughout our lives, and one that continuously leads us down the road of discontent, failure, and eventually, destruction.

And the arrows we tend to fling are often our own ill-formed, deformed weapons of destruction – arrows of anger, hurtful words, misplaced deeds, good intentions gone bad, villainous deceit, jealousy and envy, or  the fiery darts of greed, grabs for power, or pure evil, often flung directly at others.

Even when our intentions seem to be “good”, when we play “the Archer”, our arrows tend to be ill-aimed, misfired, often going beyond our sight, out of our control, landing who knows where. Perhaps they will occasionally hit a target, as a much-needed song landing within the heart of a friend (re: Longfellow), or perhaps they will miss the target altogether, and we’ll find later they have struck something or someone completely unknown and unintended, causing great damage.

More often than not, we aim at the wrong target altogether.

We fool ourselves if we believe that we are the archers who have mastered the game.

Become the Bow & Arrow in the Hands of the True Archer

Here is the truth:  Instead of striving to be an archer, we should consider ourselves the instrument of the Master Archer, who is the Lord.

In fact, we must submit ourselves to become the willing bows and arrows in the hands of The Lord God Almighty.

The Lord shapes us to be used in a place of power, but it is His power that achieves the target.

We must submit to His will and trust Him, and allow ourselves to be tuned and stretched and used according to HIS will and purpose…even when we have no idea how or where we are being used.

Like the bow and arrow, we are to become the willing instrument within the skilled and powerful hands of the great Archer.

As Oswald Chambers said in “My Utmost For His Highest”,

“A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says – “I cannot stand any more.”

God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly.

Trust yourself in God’s hands….You cannot see Him just now, you cannot understand what He is doing, but you know Him…Faith is the heroic effort of your life; you fling yourself in reckless confidence on God.”

For many, this proves too frightening – giving up control of your own life to the unknown. Sometimes it is even painful, and the process of submission, giving up our own desires, becomes seemingly unbearable.

But I have learned over the years that the God who formed me, who controls ALL things, has a plan for me that is better than anything I could have ever imagined. And when I entrust myself to His Hands, He uses me for far greater things than I could ever achieve in my own strength and will.

“He Made Me A Polished Arrow…”

Yes, the truth reveals that many of these things are achievements the world may not view as success, or even understand. And yes, I admit that sometimes that is unimaginably frustrating in my fragile and greedy human state.

But, the more I yield to him, the more I remember how we are “more than conquerors“, we were created for a greater purpose.

The more my arrow matches to His bow as I yield to the Archer, my Lord, the more balanced an arrow I become.

The more I study His Word, pray, and grow in relationship with Him, the more I patiently wait upon Him to use me, to fire me, rather than take the risk of “dry firing” on my own and therefore causing potentially great damage to myself and others.

The more I yield and bend to His will, allowing Him to shape me into a useful instrument, the more my arrow hits His target…and the greater the eternal satisfaction and contentment I experience in Him.

I rest assured that His aim is true, and I want to be confident that when He chooses THIS ARROW, the target is HIS GLORY.

I am His instrument, in His service…

I fling myself in reckless confidence in You, Lord!

Isaiah 49:1-7:

Listen to me, O coastlands,
    and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called me from the womb,
    from the body of my mother he named my name.
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
    in his quiver he hid me away.
And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”[a]
But I said, “I have labored in vain;
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the Lord,
    and my recompense with my God.”

And now the Lord says,
    he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
    and that Israel might be gathered to him—
for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord,
    and my God has become my strength—
he says:
“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Thus says the Lord,
    the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
    the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and arise;
    princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

 

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