Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Single Dad and his Single Arrow. A father sends his daughter off to college...


                                 “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. 
                              4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. 
                                     5 Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them…”                                                                                  

                                     -  Psalm 127:3-5                                                           

Solomon wrote those words about 5000 years ago, or thereabout.

I have always loved the analogy of children being arrows. This makes their dad the archer of their souls. In Biblical times, an archer made his own arrows. He fashioned them from sometimes wild and unruly saplings. To get them to straighten and take shape, he soaked them in oil for weeks. Then he fastened them in a rack until they were as straight as pins. Then he carefully smoothed the surface, sanded it, shaped it and made it ready. He attached the fletching in the exact pattern he knew would be needed for the purpose he had in mind for those arrows. Some were for hunting. Some for warfare. Some for target practice. He knew the specific characteristics of each arrow and when he was finished with them, he marked them individually, so that anyone who came across one, would know it was his arrow.
This is rich with metaphor for parenting. I have only one child…only one arrow. I have spent seventeen years crafting her as best I could. I have shaped her, anointed her with the oil of my love, attention, wisdom and, especially, prayers. I have taken note to what her purpose is, and while I am not definitely, positively, certain yet, I know it will involve music and the arts. I know she will use those wondrous gifts of hers to communicate her heart, and the heart of Jesus to this world. Here's an example of her breathtaking talents: 

                               Morgan singing "Let it Die"

I have done my best to pick the right fletching (the feathers that keep an arrow flying straight) so that she would fly true and hit her targets. I did my best to leave my mark in her heart somewhere, so that when people see her, they know she is my daughter, that I spent these last seventeen years getting her ready, and that I am proud of her and she flies with my blessing.
It all came and went too quickly. Being divorced only made it go by faster and being homeless for most of the six years between 2008 and 2014 even more so. It was hard to do the job of being her dad while I was sleeping in a truck and going to college, and working, and trying to rebuild. But we made it together. It has been a joy to have her with me since May 2014 when we got to Lynchburg from Nashville and began this adventure.
Monday begins the hardest step for me yet.
Just as Morgan has been preparing as an arrow, so I have been preparing my skills as an archer. Throughout the years I have increasingly set her to flight toward ever more distant targets. I have given her a little more room to fly with each one, even as I blinked back tears while I drew back on my bow. I have prayed more for her than for anything in my life. I have studied my fatherly archery, I have begged God to make sure I aimed for the right target. I have held my shot when letting her go would have been easier.
Monday morning, I will send her off on the first really big flight, toward her first really big target. Monday she begins her life as a college freshman and I take another step back from her, and let her fly with more freedom.
She is beginning her studies here at Liberty University, my alma mater, and, for the next four years, her future.
Thursday afternoon I walked in the front door carrying her box of school books. I did not tell her I was bringing them home. I thought I’d surprise her. When she saw me come in, and saw the white “Barnes and Noble / College” logo, she broke into a big smile. I hadn’t seen this sort of smile from her in several years. She’s been through so much and she has lost faith in good things happening for her. She had been holding her breath on this college thing for months now. It took work, right up to the very end, getting all the paperwork done and all her records forwarded and especially paying for the portion of her education that I have to pay for. Working for Liberty, I get her tuition paid for, but I still pay fees, and buy her books etc. It adds up and we’ve been stretched since my car broke down and I’ve had to fix it.
Thursday night none of that was a factor. She was happy. She smiled and opened the box and carefully went through each book like it was sacred. She gets that from me. When I was homeless and finishing my degree through LU Online and studying in my car most nights, I would have my books shipped to a PO Box I was using in the Franklin Post Office. Each semester when my books arrived I would open them like I was opening the Ark of the Covenant itself. I still have every book from every class. I love to read, but I love books themselves. I love the shape and the feel. My daughter is like that as well.
She got her ID card on Friday and went to a freshman orientation, and ate in the dining hall, and walked around with the different perspective that comes from finally being here as a student, and not just as the daughter of a guy who works in the IT department.
This mountain is special. It’s almost sacred to me and to most of the alumni I went here with. Dr. Falwell used to tell us all the time that prayer moves mountains. But here at Liberty, the mountain does some moving of its own. You learn faith here. You learn heritage here. You leave a piece of your heart here and whenever you come back it reaches out to you and makes you feel complete somehow. This mountain was reshaped by the faith of a giant of a man, and somehow, the mountain does reshaping of its own on every student who comes here.
She is here for that now. It’s her turn.
My arrow is set against my bow once again. Monday, I’ll draw her back, bend that bow with all my might, try to see the target through tears, try to hold my hand steady while my heart breaks and races all at once.
And I’ll let her fly.
The targets get bigger from here on out. Farther away with every flight. One day, she’ll make the last flight from my bow. She’ll outgrow this archer. That day will be bittersweet, like this Monday will be.
I am so glad that the next target is Liberty. I am so glad I can set her to flight here, knowing that the other arrows she flies with come from the same careful archers, for the most part. I’m so thankful knowing that everyone here, from Jerry Falwell Jr. –our president- on down to my friend Vernon who is in janitorial, work here with one goal in mind: to help archers launch arrows, and help those precious arrows hit their targets.
A large part of my fatherhood is complete now. I did what I could, given the circumstances. I poured myself into her and held nothing back. In every storm, dark night or bright day, she knew beyond a doubt that her dad loved her. She knows she flies with my blessing, and with God’s.
…and now her flight begins.

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