Friday, September 24, 2010

Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines

Sometimes, when life hits me hard, I wish I was a little child again.  I wish I didn’t have the responsibilities I have now; I wish I could go back and time to the days when I could run and play all day and trust my parents to take care of me.  I want to go back to when my only worries and sorrows were when my friends hurt my feelings, I fell and scraped my knee, or I did something wrong and had to face my father.

It was a time when I was full of joy.  I had freedom beneath my father’s watchful gaze.  Every day I knew I could come home to my parents’ house, lay my head on my pillow, and my parents would kiss me goodnight.  It was a pleasant freedom to be cared for by my parents.  A freedom that told me that everything would be alright.  I was taken care of.

But there were times when I was a child that I felt real pain, times when I cried uncontrollably, when I could not catch a breath out of anger, when I thought I would never forgive my parents.

Once, when I was in high school, I played hooky.  It was my friend’s idea, and I let him convince me.  I told my teacher I was going to the library.  I was always a good kid, so the teacher trusted me and let me go with a smile.  But I took a detour on my way down the stairs to the library and made it out the side door.  I was a senior, so my friend and I could drive, and we made it all the way to the car.  My heart was pounding, knowing the risks I was taking, but I kept telling myself that I didn’t need to go to class anyway.  I already knew the material, and I was responsible enough to make that decision.  I was old enough to be free to do as I liked.

But parents see everything.  They always find out.  That day in particular, I had a doctor’s appointment I didn’t know about, and my mom came to the school looking for me.  When the administrators could not find me in my class or in the library, worry ensued.  It was my mother who found me in the parking lot.  I will never forget the hard look she gave me.  It is engrained in my memory.

I was terrified of her discipline, and I was angry when I found out that I would be disciplined harder than my friend.  I thought my mom was too harsh, that she didn’t know what she was doing, that it wasn’t a big deal.  I couldn’t understand why I had to write an apology to my teacher and to my principle.  I didn’t know why I had privileges taken away and my friend didn’t.  Why did I have to suffer such sorrows for something so small?

But I learned my lesson, and, a long time later I began to realize that my mother was not trying to take my freedom away—she wants me to be free in knowing the right thing, to not fall in the snares of temptation.  She has higher expectations.  She loves me so very much and expects me to be better, more perfect, to always do what is right.  The better I am, the more I understand right and wrong, the harsher the discipline when I fall short.  It is a fact of life.

We are children of God.  He is our loving Father who takes care of us, who shadows us with His protective wing.  He loves us.

He disciplines us.  As Paul says to the Hebrews a few Sundays ago, “‘My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.’”

The more our parents love us, the more they want us to grow in goodness, in holiness.  God, our Father, loves us infinitely more than our parents.  The struggles we endure can be counted as discipline, and the closer we get to God, the more He expects out of us.  Yet, it the end “it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

But there will be times when we don’t understand the discipline of God.  There were plenty of times when I didn’t understand the discipline of my parents, when I was so angry with them because I thought they were being arbitrary, that they didn’t know what they were doing.  I thought they just wanted to control me.

But the reality is, we find freedom in God’s commands.  We find Truth, and peace, and love.  The children who are loved and disciplined by their parents are much freer than those who are allowed to do as they like, to get into trouble with drugs, to be promiscuous, to dance with danger.  They risk getting seriously hurt (certainly more hurt than I was when I got caught), becoming addicted to drugs, forgoing their dreams.  They risk becoming slaves to their rebellious behavior and do not find the peace of a loving home.

But God shows us the way.  He teaches us the Truth, and in it we find true freedom.

We are children of God.  Be like little children and feel the peace and joy that you did as a carefree child.  Know that it will always be alright.  We will always have God’s house to come home to.  We will always be able to lay our heads down at night and have His angels kiss us goodnight.

As children, we won’t always get what we want, and we won’t always understand His discipline.  But there is freedom in it, and peace.

“God treats you as sons,” Paul says.  Act like His Son, and hope that one day, at the gates of Heaven, an angel will smile at you and say, “You take after your Father.”

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