Discipline: An Experience of the Father’s Heart
- April 20, 2015
- Ashlee Johnson
True story – I only recall my parents needing to spank me once as a child. And then there was one time in second grade when my teacher told me to stop talking…and I erupted into a puddle of tears. I was one of those rule-following, people-pleasing kids from the start. My kids, however, seem to take after their daddy. I married a man whose mom was doing dishes during naptime one day when she saw her two-year-old walking down the sidewalk in front of their house in his diaper. Yes, that’s right – he climbed out of the crib and then out the window instead of napping. (These are the genes I’m dealing with!)
Until recently I’ve presumed that it would be better for my kids to be like me. Wouldn’t it be better if I didn’t have to stay on top of them so much? I’m sure it would be “easier” for me… but “better” is no longer a word I would use to describe a childhood full of dutiful law-keeping with little experience of loving discipline.
We attended a parenting conference this weekend led by our pastor and his wife. One of the goals they stated for gospel-centered parenting is that “all discipline leads to healthy conviction rather than toxic shame.” In delineating between conviction and shame they explained that conviction “shows children that they are sons and daughters despite their sin; shame treats them like slaves, though they are heirs.” Healthy discipline doesn’t withhold acceptance but rather assures the child of unconditional love. It convinces the child of their beloved status even in the midst of their disobedience rather than depleting their sense of acceptance due to their poor behavior.
Though this may be contrary to much conventional worldly wisdom on parenting, it absolutely aligns with God’s heart as He disciplines us. Hebrews 12 is clear – God disciplines those he loves. Discipline proves our status as sons and daughters, showing that we are not illegitimate children. His discipline is one of the means by which He pursues our hearts, draws us near to Himself, and conforms us into His image. Therefore, the experience of discipline (though painful) becomes an opportunity to experience the blessing of sonship in the midst of our ugliness. To be loved when one is fully aware of their undeserving state is a powerful, freeing experience.
By God’s grace, I want to take every opportunity in my children’s disobedience to produces conviction over their sin and an assurance of my sustained affection for them that drives away fear and angst. Being a “good girl” surely protected me from some things as I grew up, but it also robbed me of the repeated opportunity to experience love when I was unimpressive. My kids are giving me plenty of chances to exhibit the heart of God to them and I’m praying for grace to do so well.