“That is not acceptable behavior, Tim!”
Another mother rushed to the older toddler who had just knocked down my 15-month-old son in a public indoor play area. As my son melted into a puddle of tears and reached for my arms, she took her son by his hand, made him face my son and firmly explained to him that pushing other children was unkind.
“Timmy, you say I’m sorry.”
His own tears sprouted as he mumbled an apology.
My son was fine after a minute, but I appreciated the other mother’s swift, decisive intervention and thanked her. She smiled and nodded.
Webster’s dictionary defines discipline as the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. Proverbs 3:11-12 gives some additional insight. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (NIV)
Nobody wants to be told what to do, whether they are age two or 92. Our sinful nature always rebels. It’s never easy being either disciplined or the disciplinarian, and I’m not looking forward to disciplining my own son, but I take comfort in the fact that God disciplines those whom he loves. As believers, we are his precious children and God is the source of all love. He doesn’t punish us because he enjoys inflicting pain, but because he is deeply concerned with our spiritual development.
How do we know when we are being disciplined as believers? It is difficult to know until we look back on a situation later. I think it can come in the form of disappointment, of not getting what you think you want in the timeframe that you want. When God gives us a “no” answer to prayer. It can come from God calling out sin in our lives. I think it can also come in the form of suffering, either emotionally or physically, as was the audience to whom the book of Hebrews 12: 1-13 is addressed. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off anything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (NIV)
A difficult time in my life was during my early 30s when God was disciplining me to live as a single woman after my divorce. “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Let us let go of that which interferes with our walk with Christ. Sometimes we don’t want to let go. That was the excruciating part for me when I had to let go of a marriage that I wanted for all the wrong reasons.
More recently, I believe God’s discipline has come in my (second) marriage in the form of a tight budget. My husband and I don’t have the discretionary budget right now to spend money beyond basic living expenses. Yet we have learned contentment by enjoying each other’s company at home for a season. I had a great job with a lot of disposable income when I was single. But rather than long for those days again (which is tempting), I am deeply grateful for a husband who is an excellent father and doesn’t mind being the primary breadwinner. He nearly eliminated beer and wine from his spending and discovered a secondary benefit of lost weight and feeling physically better. I know God is teaching us about frugality.
Don’t we respect parents who effectively discipline their children? Shouldn’t we have all that much more respect and admiration for God in how he disciplines us? We need God’s discipline as much as children need discipline.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the many ways you discipline your children, whether through answering prayers your way rather than our way, or allowing some trials or suffering. You do it because you love us. Help us remember that when we want to complain, kick and scream. Help us to trust that you have a wonderful plan for our lives and that it does us no good to rebel. Amen