08 Jun Divine Discipline
I have pretty vivid memories of my childhood—Summer days by the pool spitting watermelon seeds, the first time I tried riding my bike down the neighborhood hill with no hands, teaching my dog to play fetch in the backyard.
They come up in waves of nostalgia, and now as an adult, I remember these moments with fondness. We were an average family, and I realize now my parents worked hard to give us a carefree childhood.
It surprises me though, that I also look back fondly on the not so great moments of my childhood. I’m sure eight-year-old me would think it’s absurd that when I remember the times I was disciplined, or was caught getting into trouble, I not only find the memories amusing, I’m even grateful for them.
I recall one particular spanking with sharp clarity. Who knows what I had done, probably something pretty bad since it merited the paddle, but I knew I was in big trouble. Before my dreaded punishment (which I was already crying about), my mom sat me down and told me she loved me, and it was because she loved me, that she was spanking me.
“I couldn’t reconcile love and discipline in my head, because to me they were opposites, enemies. They didn’t belong together.”
In my black and white eight-year-old brain, she sounded straight up insane.You’re punishing me because you love me? That makes no sense whatsoever. If you love me, why in the world are you about to inflict pain on my sensitive behind? If you really loved me, you would let me off the hook. I couldn’t reconcile love and discipline in my head, because to me they were opposites, enemies. They didn’t belong together.
Of course now, twenty years later, I’m grateful to my parents for those moments. Their punishments, especially the painful ones, provided me with boundaries, clear lines between right and wrong. They taught me how to be respectful, how to control my emotions, how to accept responsibility for my actions. Looking back now, I realize in the moment it might have seemed like my parents were restricting my freedom, but in actuality their discipline was giving me freedom. Freedom to be a functioning adult. Freedom to see my sin for what it is and respond to it. Freedom, like Hebrews says, to share in Christ’s holiness.
Here’s the deal though. I think I still respond to God’s discipline like an eight-year-old. When trials come, when I am suffering, when I feel like God is distant and not listening, or even when I feel like He has purposely placed pressure and pain in my life, I immediately assume it is because He does not love me. How could He love me and allow this pain? If He loved me, He would take the pain away, He would make my life comfortable again. I’m right back in my eight-year-old brain again, trying to reconcile eternal love with divine discipline.
“He knows exactly what I need, and just like Hebrews says, His discipline is for my good, and ultimately my freedom.”
I’ve been a Christian just long enough to look back on times of God’s grown-up discipline in my life. And when I do, to my surprise I find gratitude in my heart, because I can now recognize His hands shaping my life. He’s training me in righteousness. As great as my parents were (and are) for providing me with discipline, God’s discipline is ten million times better. He knows exactly what I need, and just like Hebrews says, His discipline is for my good, and ultimately my freedom. It’s why we can strengthen our weak knees and get a stronger grip with our tired hands in times of suffering. It’s because He’s making a way for us, being faithful to keep His promises, just like He’s always done for eternity past, and will do for eternity future.
Abby Moore Keith
Abby is the lucky wife of Sam Keith, and works as a nanny and writer for TOWN Magazine. She fulfills her millennial stereotype by frequenting artsy coffee shops, listening to obscure music, eating local, and chasing new outdoor adventures, currently manifested in the form of rock climbing. Abby attends our Downtown campus.