Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? Hebrews 12, verse 7.
When we think of parental discipline, we tend to think of punishment, that discipline is strict or harsh or carries negative connotations. That’s all sometimes true, but it’s also only half the picture and I think it misses the kind of discipline God is advising us to share with others. My parents weren’t harsh. They weren’t physical disciplinarians (though we got occasional spankings) but they could sometimes be cold. Mom and Dad had my sister and I when they were older, in their thirties (a rarity in the 1960s), and I don’t think they had it in them to be physically harsh or abusive. They had struggled to build a family and didn’t want to be physical. Yet they could sometimes be distant, disconnected, even mean. They yelled and argued from time to time; what couple doesn’t. But that was the extent of their ‘violence.’
I wish, now, that they had felt closer to God, seeing Him as a providing Father. I wish they had been more active in ‘discipling’ us. God, our Father, is, and in being our disciplinarian, He plays many roles.
Mentor – I believe God schools us as parents. He wants us to be, first and foremost, mentors to our kids. Life is the most precious gift He gives, and He gives it to we the people as parents. We get to create these little beings like ourselves, then raise them and teach them how to live in this world. God wants us to mentor them so they will know Him, then know the ways of the world. By focusing kids’ view of the world through God, we teach them that He is supreme over all. That He is the provider, giver, and lover of all. That He is all through the world yet close inside their hearts. The best teachers for that lesson are Mom and Dad. They can most effectively teach it by modeling that relationship, by inspiring their kids through active examples.
Show and tell – God gives us a world to live in so that we can teach our kids how to do the same. Sometimes that involves teaching tough lessons; sometimes it involves standing by while we watch those kids learn those tough lessons on their own. Yet we equip them to persevere and succeed if we mentor them in the ways of the Lord, then show them how to apply that teaching in all they do. It’s like a game of show and tell, where you bring something and show it off to your class. In parenting, our class is our kids, and they’re interested, engaged, ready to learn. How about we teach them about their Savior?
Listening – One of the first times I remember really connecting with my father was the night my girlfriend (my fiancée actually) and I had a huge fight. I stayed up all night, so upset that I couldn’t sleep. Dad woke up and asked me what was wrong. He then spent the rest of the night listening to me talk through the relationship from start until it’s (soon to be) finish. I believe God put it on his heart to listen to me that night, so that when he finally did open up and share some of his own story I would be ready to receive it and understand.
Leading – Finally, we must lead. This isn’t an option: it’s a requirement. You may not be comfortable ‘leading from the front’ but if you’re going to be a parent (and especially if you’re going to live as a God-fearing and God-following one) then you must lead. You don’t have to be General Patton; you aren’t Billy Graham. God didn’t make you to be either of them (unless He did). Instead, He made you to be you, with your own memories, experiences, and abilities. When you’re a parent, it’s your duty – and your privilege – to lead your kids and grandkids to the Lord. You get to serve as the go-between, facilitating the relationship they can have with their Creator. You do that by leading, by being yourself and using your talents to inspire others.
Sometimes doing all this involves tough love. Today’s verse reminds us of that. Sometimes that’s even the approach God takes with us. God doesn’t bring sin into our lives but He can and does allow, even move, sin’s consequences to affect us. That feels harsh when it happens, but He does it to build us up. After all, the Proverb reminds us that ‘iron sharpens iron.’ Yet even in those times of adversity, God’s providing love is still with us. If you’re a parent, you can understand that. You love your kids even when you discipline them because, after all, they’re disciples and you want them to grow strong. Now go out and prove it.
For further reading: Deuteronomy 8:5, 2 Samuel 7:14, Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 27:17.
My Lord, I praise You for the tough love You show, for discipline in my life, and for building me up through all of it.