“Children are a gift from the Lord”, wrote the Psalmist, “they are a real blessing. The sons a man has when he is young are like arrows in a soldier’s hand. Happy is the man who has many such arrows” (Psalm 127.3-5).
The Psalmist clearly believed that the more children the merrier! Some of us might have our doubts.
Mark Twain surely was on to something when he said: “When a child turns 13, stick him in a barrel, nail the lid on top and feed him through the knot hole. When he turns 16… plug up the knot hole”. Children can be a pain – it’s not for nothing that a best-seller by Robin Skynner & John Cleese was entitled Families And How to Survive Them.
There is, of course, nothing new about the problems of family life. You only have to think about David’s difficult relationship with his son Absalom to be aware of that. And yet the Psalmist could still regard children as being a blessing, for children can be a real support. The Psalmist puts it this way: a man blessed with children “will never be defeated when he meets with his enemies in the place of judgement” (v5). In ancient society, it made a world of a difference if you had a family to be around you when you came to court – for justice was not always meted out fairly; widows and orphans had a hard time in standing up for their rights. It was with this thought in mind that the Psalmist likens children to “arrows in a soldier’s hand” (v4). Children can be the front-line of the God-ordained defence for the family in times of need. As an archer with a quiver-full of arrows is not without defence, so too a father of many sons won’t be without a means of support.
Yes, children can be a real blessing. Certainly, this is the experience of Caroline and myself. We thank God for our four children: Jonathan, Timothy, Susannah, and Benjamin. True, each of them have proved a challenge at one time or another – but what a support they have been too.
Last weekend we had a family celebration. On the Saturday our daughter turned 40, and so she threw a party for her friends. She also invited her three brothers, but realistically she had no hope of her oldest brother, Jonathan, appearing. After all, he lives in Vancouver with his wife and child. But so strong are family ties, that Jonathan decided to surprise her: with the result that he and Fiona, and their son David Aneurin, flew over for the weekend.
Caroline and I had been invited to the party, but we stayed at home and looked after the grandchildren instead: Jemima and Raphael from Forest Gate; Felix and Clara from Stepney Green; and of course David Aneurin all the way from Vancouver. None of the children had prior knowledge of what was happening, so it was all a surprise for them too!
So on the day when Susannah had her party up in London, we had a pirate party for our grandchildren. On the Sunday we took all five children to church – their parents were still in London sleeping off the festivities. And then in the afternoon of Sunday everybody – including Benjamin and his girl-friend – came together for a family celebration. What a weekend! What a family! Thank you God for blessing us!