Looking back at last Wednesday’s post on discipline, a few more thoughts occurred to me.
I’ve noticed something with my children. When I discipline them, they tend to respond in one of two ways.
They get mad and don’t want to talk to me for a while.
They immediately want a hug, just to be reminded that Mommy and Daddy love them.
The former happens when my children either are convinced that they are right and I am wrong, or they believe that they are misunderstood and therefore are being deprived of justice because I am not giving them a chance to defend themselves. Either way, distance from me is not an uncommon reaction to discipline.
The latter is less common, but it signals to me that there is a very deep need. Disobedience causes a rift in even the best of relationships. When my children either avoid or move past the feeling of anger or injustice, they often are overwhelmed by the need to know that our relationship can be mended. Even something as simple as a quick hug can remind them that they are still loved.
So what about us? What is our response to discipline? What should be our response?
In appropriately administered and received discipline, the end result should always be a restored, and even improved, relationship.
I should not discipline my children because I want them to behave perfectly. I should discipline them because I hunger for them to have a right relationship with God. And, for children of Christian parents, part of the path to a right relationship with God comes through a right relationship with parents. So, my discipline of them should lead to a growing relationship between them and me and between them and God.
Now, my job as the administrator of discipline is to make sure that I assure them of my love. It is my job to make sure that I am not unjustly administering discipline. And I don’t always do that well. Sometimes I can take one look at the face of one of my children and know that they think they’re being treated unfairly. In those moments, I make myself step back and re-evaluate. Press for more details. Be willing to explain where I’m coming from if I have been just, but also be willing to step back and apologize if I have jumped to conclusions and misunderstood them. But, whether I’m administering discipline justly or having to step back and correct my misjudgment, it is still my responsibility to remind my children of my love.
God, on the other hand, is never wrong or unjust in His discipline. It is true. It is good. It is pure. It is right. And He is always readily waiting to remind us of His perfect love for us. As a result, His discipline of us should always result in a restored relationship with Him. If it doesn’t, we need to stop and evaluate a few things.
What was the status of our relationship with Him in the first place? Were we growing? Were we close to Him? Or were we fighting Him?
Is there real repentance? Or are we like children who are convinced that justice is not being served? Or simply angry at being caught and forced to abandon our path? Instead of true repentance, we just say we’re sorry with a half-hearted confession and keep on pushing along without any change.
A restored relationship should always follow godly discipline. Always. Whether between us and our children or us and our heavenly Father. But, we are often left to choose the path that leads to that restoration. Will we be bold enough to follow it?