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.

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Being grateful for spankings

Today’s verse is Psalm 119:7.

7 As I learn your righteous regulations,
      I will thank you by living as I should!

Isn’t it funny how mixed up our thinking is? I read this today and at first I really didn’t understand it. It seemed to me that this verse was saying that as we learn God’s rules, we should live the way He tell us in gratitude for sharing His rules. What?

I think part of my confusion (other than the fact that I stayed up way too late last night and my coffee isn’t having any effect this morning) stems from the fact that I still have trouble wrapping my head around God’s rules as gifts.

God doesn’t just make stuff up. He created the rules and laws He did to protect us but also to help us live healthy, successful lives, both physically and spiritually. And when we obey His rules, He is able to bless us. So the more we obey His rules, the more He can bless us. I say that’s motivation for learning every rule He has, wouldn’t you?

This is the same verse in the Amplified Version:

7I will praise and give thanks to You with uprightness of heart when I learn [by sanctified experiences] Your righteous judgments [Your decisions against and punishments for particular lines of thought and conduct].

So, in effect, what this verse is saying that as we live and break God’s rules, God will punish us . . . and when He does, we need to be grateful for His discipline.

Wow.

That’s a tough one. Because I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time being grateful when I am being punished for something I did wrong. Do I understand that punishment is necessary? Most of the time. But am I grateful for it? Pretty much, no.

But then I got to thinking about growing up. My parents ran a pretty strict household . . . at least, that’s probably what a lot of other parents would think. Really all my mom and dad did was to expect my brother and I to obey the rules. They explained them. And they enforced them. And most of the time, both my brother and I understood the consequences of breaking them . . . and sometimes we did it anyway . . . . Well, maybe I shouldn’t say we. I should probably say I. I was the stubborn, strong-willed, independent child.

And whenever I broke the rules, I was punished. Yes, we spanked in our household. No, I wasn’t scarred for life. Because spankings in our home weren’t spur of the moment things. It wasn’t a simple strike. It wasn’t a moment where Mom hit us in the grocery store and then moved on. Spankings in our home were a production. They took time. A lot of time. First I had to spend some time thinking about what I had done (which most of that, I admit, I spent wallowing in rebellious muttering). Then, Mom came in and explained why she had to spank me, because she loved me too much to let me misbehave. Then came the spanking, which didn’t actually hurt. I think it was the shame that I had disappointed them that caused more pain than that silly little paddle that had my name written on it.

As a child, I understood why my parents disciplined me to a limited extent. I knew the Bible told them that they had to discipline their children, and I knew my parents lived by the Bible. So I got that. And I understood that they loved me. I never doubted that. But I didn’t grasp the concept of the danger a misbehaving child faces if they continue undisciplined until I got older.

Now, I don’t have children so maybe I shouldn’t express my thoughts about this. However, I am child. And I have been a child of my parents, and I am still a child of God. And even though I don’t have children of my own, I know what the Scripture says about raising them because I have lived it.

Sparing discipline of your children for whatever reason is so dangerous. Kids growing up in the world today face choices that will utterly destroy them. And you shouldn’t expect your kids to know the right thing to do automatically. If anything, they will automatically know the wrong thing to do. And God gave them to you to teach them His rules. And if you don’t teach them His rules, they will break them. If your kids don’t take you seriously, how will they ever learn to take God seriously?

And that’s when I started realizing why we should be thankful when God disciplines us. He’s not some overbearing principal in the sky, who’s waiting around a corner to slap our hands with a ruler when we speak out of turn.

He knows the consequences of our actions. He can see where every road will take us. He can see what will happen to us if we disobey. And He is trying with everything He has to keep us off that path because when we ignore Him, it’s like running into a burning house and just waiting for it to collapse on top of us.

So I understand now why David wrote that in gratitude for God’s discipline in his life — discipline that hurts but always occurs to protect us from ourselves — he chose to live the way he should. And I’m praying that I can do that. Because I understand why God corrects me, why He discplines me. He loves me. And just like my parents, He loves me too much to let me do wrong and get away with it. And when I can wrap my head around that concept and learn to love His rules more than my stubborn, strong-willed, damaging indpendence, He will bless me more than I can take in.