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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Go to your room!

Let your love dictate how you deal with me;
      teach me from your textbook on life.
   I'm your servant—help me understand what that means,
      the inner meaning of your instructions. 
(Psalm 119:124-125)

As a parent, whenever one of my children did something that deserved some "discipline", I had to "weigh" what would be appropriate for the offense.  If it was a minor offense....like not having the breakfast dishes they'd used that morning washed when I got home...it warranted a much "lighter" punishment.  When they struck each other, threw things in anger, or lied, there were differing forms of discipline required.  Why is it that we "vary" the discipline we give our children?

It is simply because we want them to learn from their errors, but we don't want to crush them in the process of the learning!  When love "dictates" how we deal with our children, we learn to be compassionate with them as they fail.  We use the failures as opportunities to develop the character traits that will make them into stronger adults.  We learn to be "measured" in our discipline, helping the child learn that certain actions will "make or break" their character as adults.  We are developing values and morals as we do.

If the child keeps striking other people, he/she will soon be labeled as the "bully" - or worse yet, as a mean-spirited, misbehaved, angry child.  If the child neglects to get the dishes done, they may not have a very clean house, but the concern of the parent is really directed toward the disciplines of not being lazy or irresponsible with our commitments.  In teaching our children, we are desiring to form life-long values that will influence their future decisions and actions.

God is no different.  As our heavenly Father, he "tailors" the instruction and the discipline to help us grow where we need most to grow.  He knows that a little "slackness" today and tomorrow and the next day has the potential to lead to a whole lot of slack days.  When he sees us continually choosing things that hurt our body, damage our minds, or wreak havoc on our emotions, he wants to counter them with things that will build us up, keep us safe, and embrace us in love.

The way we interpret God's instruction - his discipline - determines how well we embrace it.  I remember my kids storming off to their rooms, angered by the "discipline" I would give (like missing out on TV or picking up their clothes from the floor would kill them!).  The immediate response to the discipline was not always great.  Today, I look at my children and see the "tell-tale" signs of that discipline.  They have grown into responsible adults - each at their own pace, but nonetheless, they are exhibiting the traits I so earnestly hoped they would.

That is all God is hopeful for when he brings discipline into our lives - that we will grow into the mature believers of faith that he sees for us in the future.  We may call this discipline - God calls it discipleship!  All depends on how we look at it!