When Discipline Doesn’t Feel Loving
My heart absorbed the moment as I listened to my husband’s words to our son, “You are made for so much more. You are meant to be a voice 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 that if not diverted now. Fear of a negative trajectory for his life seized my heart with fear.
I sat heavy in my seat on the car ride home where I knew he was waiting for me and dreading my arrival at the same time. When I walked into our home, I found him sitting in the kitchen with his elbows resting on his knees, and his head hung low. I sat across from him, and our eyes met for a moment before the tears pooled in the corners of his eyes. I had to fight the urge at that moment to be the rescuer.
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 save 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 feels 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 His 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. I think about this as we walk through a crowded field a few days later at an independence day event. He lagged behind, much like me in my non-celebratory mood, my heart still felt heavy from the week we had faced and the concern I felt over him. Yet, even in the moment of receiving the phone call and even when I was listening to him make excuses to justify his actions and avoid punishment, I only wanted to be near him. In spite of it all, I only wanted his presence and his smile and his humor.
Perhaps our incorrect view of God causes our tendency to hide, to withdraw, to isolate, and attempt to cover ourselves when we feel like we’ve messed up. But we have a Father who only wants us to come closer. He is the One who pursued us first. He is the One who loved us even in spite of us, and who searches us out in our fleeing and our hiding.
That’s what the Father does when we draw closer. Never shaming or condemning. He never reminds us of all of the ways we have failed or fallen short. Does He allow us to experience the pain of our choices? Absolutely. As a good Father should. But He also reminds us of who we are and what we are made for. He tells us that we are made for so much more and that we are meant to be a voice on the earth.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT I know firsthand in my life that discipline is a painful thing to experience. What made it even more painful at the time was the shame that was attached to it. The feeling that I had disappointed God or that He didn’t want relationship or closeness with me because I had failed. Proverbs 3:12 says, “Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Just as I want the best for my children, the Lord also knows that discipline is good for me. He allows it because He loves me. He also knows the end from the beginning and promises, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus ” Philippians 1:6 (NIV). If you are in a season of discipline, never forget it comes from a place of love for you and a desire to allow your voice to be clear and true on this earth until we move on to the next one.
PRAYER Father, help me to be a parent who reflects Your love and discipline because it is the loving thing to do, even when it doesn’t feel like it. I pray that the perfect love of the Father will be reflected through me. In my own moments of failure, help me to turn to You rather than distancing myself from You. Thank You for Your love and patience. Amen.