Apply your heart to instruction
and your ear to words of knowledge.
Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
If you strike him with the rod,
you will save his soul from Sheol.
My son, if your heart is wise,
my heart too will be glad. Proverbs 23:12-15
A couple of months ago, I experienced a number of people evaluating my parenting style, while visiting at their respective houses. In each case, they mentioned the adage, “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Though this saying isn’t a direct quote from the Bible, it is taken from a few verses of Proverbs, the above being one of them.
I always wondered about this subject, especially since becoming the parent to two very head-strong girls, as the concept of God ‘striking’ me into submission for the sake of discipline has never been what I had personally experienced in my relationship with Him. In fact, in my own childhood, I can say that when I was spanked in the name of discipline, what I learned was how to evade the punishment, rather than to avoid the misdeed.
Discipline is important to success in life. When I used to hear the word, the connotation that I associated with it was always related to punishment and spanking. But when I looked more deeply into the meaning, punishment is only a small part of it; more often the word ‘discipline’ means to correct or train through an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves knowledge, skill, self-control, etc.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5
For me, discipline is about training or correction that brings about reconciliation and an environment for learning, more than punishments that produce fear. When God disciplines me, He doesn’t spank me, He shows me His heart. When I see the part of His heart that is hurting because of my less-than-stellar choice, I better understand the effects of my choice and with wisdom and guidance through His love, I am able to make the necessary changes in my life decisions; I am able to repent and be forgiven. There may still be consequences that I have to experience in the natural, but the process helps me to learn and brings us back together in connection.
By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory. Proverbs 24:3-6
I believe that my children were given to me to steward, to teach, to discipline, to nurture, and to love; it is my job as a parent to best represent God while raising them, so that they can understand a small piece of who He is and manifest that in their lives as they continue into adulthood. Just as I need wisdom, understanding, and knowledge – discipline – to be victorious, my children need it all too.
I have to decide in each moment of parenting: Will I show them self-control or a lack of restraint? Will I show them God’s truth or my frustration? Will I show them love or give them something to fear? Will I build them up or tear them down?
Parenting is hard, and I know that along the way, I am going to get it ‘wrong.’ There will be times that I am too lax in the eyes of others; there will be times when I am too overwhelmed to catch every bad choice that my children make. There will be times that I lose my temper and show my children my exasperation; there will be times that I react aggressively and scare them into obedience.
That being said, my ultimate goal is to show them a heart of love, to maintain connection, to experience right relationship, and demonstrate how to make good choices in life that protect those things, the way that God shows the same to me.
Yesappa, help me understand Your heart better as I walk through this journey of parenting. Shape my heart to be more like Yours. Show me how to keep my love on in every situation with my children, not only in the joyful times, but most importantly, in the moments that call for discipline. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.