Carving Pillars to Adorn a Palace...parenting daughters.
Psalm 144: 12 - Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.
I stumbled upon this verse yesterday accidently, providentially.
I have three daughters (Kami - 11, Aly - 9, Taylor - 6) and I spend a great deal of mental energy mulling over scenarios in my mind, trying to anticipate the future rather than being left crying over spilt milk, playing Monday morning quarterback, and enjoying 20/20 hindsight for the rest of my days.
I long for 20/20 foresight in parenting my daughter's hearts. They can't afford to be Guinea pigs, lab rats for my parental experiments. My treatment must be more exacting, thorough, and customized. Preemptive parenting seems to produce healthier humans according to my unofficial research. The forethought and foresight that I'm talking about is addressed in this obscure passage found in Psalm 144.
David starts the chapter asking God to "train his hands for war and his fingers for battle". I love this big ask. He knows what he's up against. He knows that in many ways he hasn't been trained from his parents and that he needs God's mentoring, his sage-like wisdom, his careful training. I feel this a lot as a parent and I had great parents. I feel like my hands are anything but trained to handle the battle of life. And my fingers...heck, they dangle palsy-like awaiting a therapist's strength training regimen. So yeah, I stand in need of training, big-time.
Until I'm trained, I can't train. Until I'm parented, I can't parent. Until I'm shaped, I can't shape. You don't need the wisdom of Shakespeare to deduce this.
So back to my girls.
They are beautiful through and through. Their hearts are tender to the touch right now. And yet, they are waiting to be hewn with the careful strokes of the sculptures chisel. They are rough, knotty, and unshapely. Potential lies beneath the bark that covers their lively core. Ring upon rings of life have grown over the years. They are constantly growing from the inside out. They are getting stronger. But are they getting stronger character or stronger bad habits, stronger predispositions? This is the question.
Parenting girls is like carving. It takes patience. It takes a plan. You can't just start chiseling off random chips of wood, you have to know what you want the life to look like, or it will turn out to be a 'hack job'. Having a blueprint inside your head provided by the "trainer" that you have apprenticed under is essential. The way he trained your hands makes all the difference in the word. What does sage-God say about this little pillar I'm working on? What kind of chisel should I use to carve this unique design? What kind of wood am I carving and what kind of tool do I need? Every piece of wood is different. I have to keep consulting my master-carver and my master-plan. If I don't, a 'hack job baby' is inevitable. Which is not much better than a "crack baby".
Carving is delicate, deliberate. You sand a rough edge and blow off the residue left behind. You shuck violently sometimes, and shave tenderly at others. You create depth of dimension. Your hands shake because what is taken off cannot be put back on. (There is wood glue, but the integrity of the product is compromised.) It's not like hair, it doesn't grow back once you lop it off. Thus, you have to make sure your deliberate strokes are stable and sure. "He trains our hands."
I love that this verse turns stereotypes upside-down. You would think young guys would be the strong pillars and the youthful girls would be plants in need of nurture. But the Psalmist pulls a fast one. He applies strength to the young woman. He switches the customary metaphor around and compares a little girl to a "pillar", an object of strength and fortification.
A pillar is foundational. It holds things up, it holds things together. It must stand tall; it must stand strong. When the pillar is weak, the whole superstructure is weak. When the pillar is strong, the building is lasting, almost everlasting.
These daughters that I'm carving aren't spindles or chair legs or banisters or crown molding. They aren't nonessential fixtures. They are in every way prominent and powerful. They mustn't be trifled with or given the scraps of my efforts. How they turn out will be front and center. Front in the sense that they are the first thing you see, center in the sense that every thing else will be build around them.
I am carving columns in the colosseum. I'm handling the wood that will hold the weight of the world. I must remember this when I feel prone to write off their value.
But I'm not just carving pillars for mere utilitarian purposes, I'm working on beauty. These pillars are meant to adorn, not just support. They are meant to beautify and astound. They are meant to stop people dead in their tracks, give people goosebumps, make others cry in reverence at the sight of such bewitching beauty.
And there is little else that strikes at the core of a woman's desire more than the desire for "adornment". They love to be adored. They loved to be doted on. They want to be beautiful as well as powerful. They don't want to just fill the role of holding things together, they want to dazzle and bedazzle. They start to feel used when everyone leans on them and they are carrying the work load. They want to be dressed up, made up, dolled up.
This is what I love about seeing old structures from Rome. They didn't just throw up pillars; they worked on making them beautiful. It wasn't just about creating something useful, it was about creating something meaningful. Something that would move people when they looked upon it. You would see it and just know, "They didn't have to do that, but someone cared enough to adorn it with the detail of a carver's creative love." I can tell when parents have loved their daughters well. They go the extra mile. They aren't just providing for basic needs, they are aiming for something higher than that. They want to create something beautiful.
I want to adorn my daughters.
It makes logical sense that this verse would end with the word 'palace'. Castles and palaces are written into the little girls heart. Most of the early years in a budding females life are spent pretending and dreaming about living in castles with a king and a kingdom. They watch movies about it. These are their toys. This is what they make believe about. All three of mine have...and they still do.
We are carving a column to be placed in a beautiful castle.
Something palatial. Something adorable. Something powerful. Something careful. Something that takes the careful hands of a carver. A sculptor. A parent who's hands have been trained.
Have I been "carving" or "complacent"?
Do I see my daughters as "pillars" and "powderpuffs"?
Have I been "adoring" my daughters so that they "adorn" life around them?
Have I been creating a "palace" for them to live or just a "place" for them to live?
I love being a father to daughters. This verse uncovered a word picture that brought my heart to life. I hope it does so for others.