Taking aim

One summer between university classes, I took a job as a counselor for the Campfire Girls. The camp was located near Parkville, Mo., in the deep woods above the Missouri River north of Kansas City.

[Internet photo]

[Internet photo]

I had been a Brownie and a Girl Scout from elementary through junior high school years but Campfire Girls was something new to me. I know exactly what landed me the job. When I was interviewing (and it was one of those Job Fair things where a host of agencies and organizations are lined up looking for interns and summer help), I told them I wanted to be a camp counselor because through Scouting and my church, I had some really terrific camping experiences and I just wanted to offer something back to other girls. The interviewer paused and then got the attention of one of her colleagues, called her to the table and asked me to repeat the answer to the question. I figured I was on to something, so I put my best inflection into the statement and tried to look like I meant it (which I did, but what can hurt by adding a little drama?).  A week later, I had a job offer in the mail.

So off to summer camp I went. It was relatively rustic. We lived in tents, but they were built on platforms so we were up off the ground. The most threatening thing to watch for were copperhead snakes, but we had a man on staff who specialized in locating those buggers and keeping them out of our way.

As I recall, the girls who came to camp for a week at a time were all from the Kansas City area and were known as what at that time was called under-privileged. Frankly, I never did find out if serving that demographic was a priority for the Campfire Girls or not. But they were nice kids and looking to have a good, safe time. As with any service-oriented job, and by that I mean service above self, I got so much more from those girls than I think I gave them.

But one of the really fun things I got to do that I had never done before was archery. When I was a kid I had a bow and some arrows with little suction cups in place of arrowheads. I do recall trying to plant one on my little brother’s forehead but I don’t remember much real target practice.

[Internet photo]

[Internet photo]

These bows and arrows provided by the Campfire Girls meant business. I found I was pretty sharp shooter, but I also quickly learned that it takes a lot of strength to pull back the bowstring. While I was hitting the target almost dead center, I was also, unknowingly at first, wracking up long bruises on my inner arm from the bowstring as it returned to its home position. I wasn’t holding the bow out far enough from my arm to prevent that. And because I was so successful with my target practice, I just tried to hide the bruising by wearing long sleeves, a feat I was able to pull off in the hot, humid Missouri summer because I was always the object of swarming mosquitoes.

This week I’ve had several conversations with friends and virtual strangers about the slings and arrows of life; about depression and its causes; about the disappointment of family and friends who sometimes too easily desert us; about the setbacks of life from financial to relational. It made me think about that bow and arrow I used with the Campfire Girls.

If you place an arrow onto a bow and even carefully position the string into the slot on the arrow but you don’t pull that bowstring back, when you let go of the arrow, it will only fall at your feet. The only way to make an arrow move forward according to your aim is to use your strength to pull back on that bowstring and then release it. The arrow will go wherever it is directed although sometimes our aim isn’t very good. The point is that in order to make any progress with an arrow is to pull it backwards first.

[Internet image]

[Internet image]

That’s the way with life and its accoutrements, isn’t it? So often it feels like we take one step forward but then it seems we’ve taken two steps back.

I think what we don’t realize is that the step we’ve taken forward is the result of previous fallbacks. We’ve learned from our mistakes and so we can take a step forward. Then we make another mistake and take two steps back which then leads to taking another step forward.

Just like the bow and arrow. We have to use all the strength we have to pull that bowstring back. That strength, we discover, is what gives us the ability to get closer to our target and not only hit it but hit the bullseye.

Sometimes we learn as I did with the bruising of my arm, it hurts a little to learn how to set ourselves up for success rather than failure. We can expect to get hurt as we also gain our independence, our self-confidence, our sense of accomplishment. All of that can hurt a lot.

But the gain we achieve is worth the effort as long as we are also mindful of those around us, of their feelings, and of some attempts to hold us back. Most importantly, we must remember that God is there helping us to pull that very, very tight bowstring back and helping us hit our targets dead center.



David slays Goliath with a stone and an arrow

33 Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. 36 Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 David said, “The Lord, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.” So Saul said to David, “Go, and may the Lord be with you!”

38 Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. 39 David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

41 The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.” 45 But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.”

48 When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49 David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, striking down the Philistine and killing him; there was no sword in David’s hand. – 1 Samuel 17:33-50

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