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Loving Discipline

My heart absorbed the moment as I listened to my husband’s words to our son. “You are made for so much more," my husband said. "You are meant to be a voice of goodness on the earth.”

It had been a long and emotionally taxing day after receiving a phone call from my mother-in-law. Her voice on the other end was regretful and apologetic as she told me that my son had gotten in trouble.

Though it was a little thing, it had potential to become a big thing if it is not diverted now. The fear of a negative trajectory for his life seized my heart with fear.

As I sat in my seat on the car ride home, heaviness threatened to crush me. Waiting for me at home, I knew my son was dreading my arrival. Sure enough, when I walked into our home, I found him sitting in the kitchen with his elbows resting on his knees. His head was hung uncharacteristically low.

I sat across from him at the table. Our eyes met for a few seconds before the tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. In that moment, I had to fight the urge to be his rescuer, and instead, stay the course as the disciplining parent.

Discipline is more painful for me as his parent than for him as the recipient. Not because he asked numerous times over the next week for his phone privileges back. Not because he fatigued my ears and my will by asking, “How long?”

It’s painful for me to inflict punishment because I know that it doesn’t feel kind to him. I remind myself that love without discipline is not loving at all. If I spare him, and don’t allow him to experience the burn of touching the stove, he will likely continue on a path that will hurt him more in the future. He will not learn the crucial lesson at hand.

My heart felt the soberness of this wrecking truth: If I, in all of my best efforts at being a good parent, feel this pain, how much more does God when we are suffering because of our own choices? Does He feel that ache in His heart when the children that He loves more than life, experience the discomfort?

In Judges 16:10, it says this: “Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” (NIV)

There was never a single moment in the aftermath of it all that I didn’t want to draw near to my son. Truth is, that car ride home was painfully long. I couldn’t get to him soon enough, and not because I wanted to scold him. On the contrary, I wanted to hold him.

I think about these events as our familys walk through a crowded field a few days later. We are going to an Independence Day event. It's a day of celebration, yet is was anything but celebratory.

My son lagged behind, shuffling his feet as we walked. He was much like me in the gloomy mood that seemed to cloud everything. My heart, still felt heavy from the week we had faced, and the concern I felt over him could not be shaken as I reflected on my concern for him..

Yet, even in the moment of receiving the phone call. Even when I was listening to him make excuses to justify his actions in order to avoid punishment. Still, I only wanted to be near him. In spite of it all, I only wanted his presence, his smile and his humor.