Here’s the rough draft of the article I worked on today. No title as of yet…

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Heb 12:11

It’s been a rough afternoon.

Videos are scattered, books are down from their shelves, pages are torn and strewn about, and in the center of this mess is my two-year-old daughter. I only stepped from the room for a couple of minutes and, when I returned…chaos.

She looks up at me guiltily. She should.

Gracie knows that the movies are off-limits. She knows that the books are “no touches.”

Her understanding is given away by the tears that well in her eyes when I walk in the room and stop to survey the damage.

You see, she knows the right from wrong that exists in her own little world, and she knows the consequences. I know them too…I just hate enforcing them.

I don’t want to give her a swat. I don’t want to make her cry…I just want her to be happy and I want to love her.

Still, she must learn disciple and self-control, and if not now, when? Do I really want to be dealing with this four years from now? Eight? Do I want to wait until she’s a teenager and try to instill discipline then?

Forget about me for a minute…

What about her? I want what every parent wants for their children. I want her to have a happy and productive life. Can I name a single person, of all the people I’ve known, who has led an undisciplined life, a life without self-control, who was happy?

No.

I know where that kind of life leads. I’ve seen it at its worst, and experienced a little of it myself. The folks I know whose lives are the most joyous, ordered, and content, are those who not only know right from wrong (and really, who doesn’t) but, have also been taught to discipline their own behavior to do what is right.

I suppose I could just move everything she’s not supposed to touch to high shelves and make them inaccessible to her. Boy, that would make my life a lot easier! No more shredded novels, no more broken knickknacks, no more messes, no more tears. I could do that (and have been advised to, believe me) but am I willing to make her life harder just to make my own easier?

So…the swat, the tears and hugs, and then the clean up.

And, again, I get a vivid picture of my relationship with God the father, through my relationship with Gracie.

“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” Heb 12:10

You see, I know right from wrong. I know those things that are off-limits in my own life, the temptations that God has labeled as “no-touches” in my little world. I know it is sin even as I reach out my hand (…or eyes…thoughts…) and when God finds me sitting in the middle of my own mess, looking guilty, He loves me too much to not correct me, to not discipline me.

Not because he is the stern, unforgiving protector of the rules, but because He wants me to be happy.

If I, in my limited understanding, know what the future holds for an undisciplined life, how much more does my all-knowing Father? (Hebrews 4:13)

And so, the swat. My sins are brought into the light (Job 12:22), I am shamed and humbled, relationships are hurt, my trustworthiness is damaged. Maybe a job is lost, maybe a spouse is wounded. God doesn’t want to see me cry, so wouldn’t it be easier for Him not to discipline me? It’s not like my sin effects His ability to be God, after all. My actions aren’t going to cost Him the election…he’s already God.

He loves me, and he wants me to he happy, and so He disciplines me.

By the way, when I say happy, I don’t mean “lying on the beach sipping umbrella drinks and counting my money” happy. I’m talking about the true happiness, the contentment of the soul that comes with being aware of, and walking in, the will of God.

Luckily for me, there is also grace and mercy. Through the pain and the tears, my Father’s arms are always open to receive me and comfort me.

“Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”
Job 5:17-18 (NIV)

Even as I suffer the consequences of my actions, He makes his love known to me, and He forgives me.

A lot of us stop there.

In my own childhood home this is where the cycle ended. I made the mess, I got the swat, I got the hug, and then mom cleaned up. Yet, that’s not how God does it, so it’s probably not how I should do it either. In God’s plan, restitution must be made. It took many painful years for me to learn that restitution wasn’t part of the discipline, or even part of the consequences for my actions.

Restitution is simply restitution. It’s the amends, the restoration of the damage I’ve caused.

The Bible makes this clear in Leviticus 6:4: “when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found.” To put it in more appropriate terms, “when I sin and become guilty, I must make it right.”

It’s helping clean up the mess, not to punish me for being “bad” but simply because the mess has to be cleaned up.

For some of us, disciple alone is not enough. I was one of those kids that would weigh the action against the punishment, and sometimes decide it was worth it. (If you weren’t on of those kids, I’ll bet you know one!) Disciple was getting a spanking for stealing a candy-bar. Restitution was having to mow the neighbors lawn and then take that money to the store and give it to the manager while confessing and apologizing.

Sometimes I can take the discipline, but the restitution is nearly always more than the sin is worth to me. Simply the knowledge that I must make restitution is often enough to keep me from indulging in the sin.

Also, I say helping clean up the mess because none of us has, within our own selves, the power to make things whole again. (Romans 3:10) God makes things whole again, and we, in doing our part, get a glimpse at his character and a reminder of who and what we are called to be.

It takes a long time for a two-year-old to clean up a mess. One piece of paper at a time, one slow walk to the bookshelf and back, under constant supervision and directions. It would be a lot easier and quicker to clean it up myself. Also, just because she can get a book down from a shelf, doesn’t mean she can get it back up, so I hold her up and guide her hands as she restores order from chaos.

But I do it, because restoration is part of discipline, the mess has to be cleaned up, and I want her to be happy.

He does it because restoration is part of reconciliation, the mess has to be cleaned up.

He wants me to be happy.

-Gracie’s Daddy

Advertisements