Randall Gerard writes back...

Location: Out West

An old-fashioned guy grappling with new-fangled ways.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Making arrows...

I doubt I have any readers left, it's been so long, but I'm going to write anyway. Writing is not my calling, at least not one that pays well, so if you're wondering where I've been, it's really very simple. I've been making a living, and I hope a life fit to glorify my king. I've also been making arrows, in a metaphorical sense, putting the finishing touches on young adults the Lord has placed in my care. Lately though, I've been thinking that I would like to try my hand at making my own archery gear, literally. I have a good friend who does that. He builds his own bows and arrows, and the related accoutrements, and hunts with his creations. He's very good at both. His home is filled with skull mounts, usually with the fatal arrow prominently displayed with the mount.
One day, I sat down with him and picked his brain on arrow making. The first thing, he said, is matching the arrow to the weight and draw length of the bow. It needs to be an inch or so longer then the draw, and have enough stiffness to withstand the cast of the bow without bending and 'porpoising' in the air as it flies toward the target. Archers call this characteristic 'spine'; and much of it has to do with the diameter and weight of the shaft, but also the material. Aluminum has more stiffness per gram of weight then cedar wood, for example. Once the bow is matched to the shaft, and the shaft is straightened and shaved to the correct weight, a nock is added at the narrow end, (if it's wood, one end will usually be a little smaller diameter then the other). Fletching, usually turkey feathers split in half down the middle, are carefully glued in special grooves cut for the purpose, just above the nock. And finally, a broadhead is carefully fitted to the other end with glue and lashings, that is, if it's a traditional wooden arrow.
I haven't really done justice to this process with the preceeding paragraph. It's a lot more complicated and time consuming to do it then it is to write about it. It takes my friend hours to make one arrow from start to finish, assuming he isn't starting with shafts he cut green himself. The scariest thing about arrow making by hand is it's very hard to tell a good one from a bad one without going out back, pulling the nock to your jaw and lettin' fly. Sometimes, it's just magic, and the arrow flies straight and true every time. Other times.. well you just don't know where it's going to end up. And the troubling thing is, the true one, to the naked eye, looks just like the bad one. The proof of the arrow, it would seem, is in the shooting.
And so it is with building metaphorical arrows; with raising children. They must be carefully prepared, of the right materials, straightened and shaved of all extraneous growths that might hinder their flight. The fletching, the nock, the broadhead, all must be carefully considered and firmly attached with the most durable, long-lasting glues and lashings. Arrows take a beating. They are slender, and appear fragile yet they are expected to punch through and bring down wilderness hardened game. Our children, though young and as yet untested have a similar daunting task ahead of them. They are expected to punch through and bring down the world for the glory of God. Their mission, and ours, is to pierce hearts with the Gospel, compelling every creature to bow the knee and confess 'Jesus is Lord'.
It is folly to launch 'arrows' at the enemy who aren't yet fletched or straightened or equipped with a razor sharp broadhead. But that seems to be what many well-meaning christians want us to do with our children, when they accuse homeschooling parents of being 'retreatist'. We're not retreating at all. We are preparing to do serious battle with seriously prepared young warriors. There isn't a modern christian alive today that doesn't consider the 'children's crusade' launched in the middle ages a cruel and foolish expression of presumption and pride, NOT faith. When the Pope sends children off to war, we shake our heads in derision, and rightly so. Yet in the culture war battlefield of the public school, where the enemy is busily taking no prisoners, we think we're obeying God if we send our children into this war. Brothers and sisters, in this sad and sinful world we are going to lose many who are full grown and fully prepared to do battle. How can we justify sending out those who aren't prepared?