A kitten swatting at a cat's tail, Haven, KS

Why the why in discipline matters

When was the last time you got spanked? It’s honestly been so long since my parents punished me for anything, I don’t remember. Not that I was a great kid. I was actually the bad one. Or rather, the independent one. I liked doing things my own way, and I was stubborn about it. (Imagine that, right?)

Even then, I don’t remember the last spanking I got. While I didn’t always agree with them, I always understood why it was necessary. And growing up, I learned not to do the things Mom and Dad said were wrong because I didn’t want to be punished. But as I got older, I began to understand that the things Mom and Dad said were wrong really actually were wrong. They weren’t trying to prevent me from having a good time. They were trying to protect me from doing something that could damage my life.

So as I grew older, I stopped obeying them out of fear of punishment and started obeying because I recognized their rules existed for my benefit.

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin's tail, Haven, KS

Typo as a kitten swatting at Gremlin’s tail, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 3:11-12.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you.
For the Lord corrects those he loves,
just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.

Anyone ever have a similar experience with God? When you first met Him, did you do what He said was right because you were afraid of being punished? Did you only obey Him because you feared what He would do to you if you disobeyed?

Well, I could be opening a can of worms, but I really don’t know if God works like that. Now, will He allow you to face the consequences of your actions? Definitely. But is He watching for the moment you make a mistake to smash you with a hammer? No.

I remember being young, both in age and in my relationship with Jesus, and I was often afraid that I would do something wrong. And if I hated spankings from my parents, I could just imagine what a spanking from God would be like. So growing up, I always made sure to obey the rules because I didn’t want to be punished.

But I’m older now. I’ve known Jesus for a long time. And after all the years I’ve walked with Him, after all the life He’s let me experience, I can honestly tell you that fearing punishment isn’t the way to build a relationship with Him.

The same holds true for your parents. If you go through life just doing what they say so you won’t get in trouble, you’ll never understand why. And it’s often the why that leads us into closer relationships with others. It’s the why that breaks down the walls of our communication and gives us a glimpse at someone else’s heart.

I’ve known too many people who treated God like a strict disciplinarian. And I can tell you, each one of those people were never interested in getting to know Him. If that’s the way you see Him, you won’t want to take the time to get to know Him.

Because, honestly, who wants to know somebody like that? People like that are hard to get along with and uncomfortable to be around. And those people do exist. But God isn’t that way. And I can say that because I know Him personally.

There’s nothing wrong with the parent-child relationship that begins with obedience through fear of punishment. In many instances, that’s the only way to get through to a strong-willed, hard-headed child. But just because the relationship begins there doesn’t mean it has to stay there. If that same relationship exists when the child is an adult, something is wrong. If that same relationship exists when the child is grown, the child never actually grew up.

Relationships are supposed to grow. And maybe you start obeying because you’re afraid of discipline, but if you take the time to understand why the discipline is important, you’ll get to the place where you understand your authorities better. And—here’s a shocker—you might even agree with them.

So what rule are you having trouble obeying right now? Have you taken the time to understand it? Have you taken the time to ask why it matters to your authorities?

If you’re fine living in fear of punishment for the rest of your life, that’s up to you. And, true, just because you understand a rule doesn’t mean that you’ll escape punishment if you break it. But understanding a rule will help you take a step toward building a relationship with people in authority over you, and that will have a tremendous effect on your attitude.

What God gives us

Good morning from Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs, Colorado! I’m not sure what the temperature is, but I’m wrapped up in my quilt shivering in my hotel room as I type this. It’s marvelous!

My best buddy, Katie Morford, and I are attending a writing workshop here this week, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. And we’ve only had one session! The real work starts today.

Are you ever shocked at what God gives you? What He trusts you with? How He provides for you? God blows my mind every morning when the sun comes up that He’s chosen to give me another day.

God gives us good things — great things — every day. Every moment, really. But most of the time, we are so caught up in the busyness of life that we either don’t see it or we refuse to acknowledge it.

He gives us air to breathe. He gives us a home to live in. He gave you a computer to read this blog this morning. He gave me a netbook (thank you, Andy!) and an internet connection to write this blog with this morning. We have clothes to wear, food to eat and many of us have jobs or at least some kind of income. Each of those things are huge.

But God doesn’t just stop there. He goes beyond just giving us what we need. Many times He gives us the things we want too. Fun things (like a trip to Colorado). Exciting things (like an unexpected opportunity to pitch my manuscript at an experienced writer). Encouraging things (like six whole days hanging with my best friend).

The verse this morning is Luke 11:13.

13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

I have had a really great example of what it means to be a parent. I have the most awesome parents in the world, who have really shown me what it means to be loved and protected and encouraged. They sacrificed to give me things that I needed — and things that I wanted too.

But no matter how much I love and adore my parents, they are still people. They aren’t perfect.

God, however, as my Heavenly Father is completely, entirely, wholly perfect. He always has been, and He always will be because He can’t be anything else.

So think about that. If my parents, who aren’t perfect, have given me so much . . . how much more can God give me? What more can God provide for me? It’s mind boggling. God made the universe. He made time itself. He made everything we see and everything that we don’t see.  And He’s offering to provide for me like a parent? He’s offering me the chance for Him to give me the things I need?

Can you wrap your head around that? I can’t.

Imagine the resources at our very fingertips! Imagine the things that He wants to give us! Imagine the help He wants to provide us!

So why don’t we accept it? Do we not think it’s real? Do we not think His offer is real? Do we think He’s unable to help?

Do we think we’re unworthy of His help? Well, that’s absolutely true. None of us are worthy of anything God wants to do for us. No one is worthy of any good thing God can give. But that is the point. That is who God is.

We’re not worthy of salvation, but He saves us anyway because He loves us. We’re not worthy of a relationship with us, but He seeks us out and brings us home because He loves us. We’re not worthy of His aid, but He offers it freely because He loves us.

I don’t know about you, but I need His help. And I’m going to be relying on it pretty strongly today.

God is standing by, eagerly waiting to help anyone who asks. So why don’t we ask?