I had been struggling. For the last three or four days, I had been near tears. Things were out of control, and I was drowning. As bad as that was, worse than that was knowing I knew better than this and still not being able to get my footing back. It was like being at the beach, and each wave knocking over me and filling my mouth and nose with stinging salt water as it rolled over me. I knew there was a ground to stand on, but I still kept falling over. What was the problem?
I might know everything, but I know Who does. I went to the Lord and said, "This is not of you. I'm doing something. What is it?"
Clear as a bell, His voice rang through the mayhem. Relieved and thankful, I rejoiced. Father God had set me free from my own devices, my own thinking, my own answers. He had moved me from my limits to His abundance.
With one simple statement from the Lord, I knew what I was doing wrong, corrected my position, and was back on my feet. Instead of knocking me down, waves rolled by while I stood strong.
When I told my friend about it, excitement and gratitude poured out of me. God is so faithful. He's so merciful. He answered me when I called to Him, and He set me free. How amazing is our God!
Quiet filled the air. Finally, she said, "See, that is a difference between us. God corrects you, and you get excited. God corrects me, and I feel like caving into a ball."
My turn to be silent. Cave into a ball? The God of all the universe just took time to hear my prayer and set me free from what had me imprisoned in chaos. Yeah. I'm excited.
However, her voice didn't just lack excitement, it was filled with hurt.
"Why do you think that is?" I asked.
She tossed around several suggestions. In the end she summed it up, "I'm not like you. When God corrects me, I think He's mad and will punish me. When He corrects you, you think He is doing some great and is really doing it so you can have something better. I dread it. It fills you with joy."
That is a huge difference.
Since that conversation a few days ago, I've spent some time with the Lord to understand the differing views of discipline.
For most of us, most "correction" came in the form of punishment. The definition of punishment is "any pain, suffering, or loss inflicted on a person because of a crime or offense." Punishment is driven by revenge--revenge for making someone look bad, revenge for daring to disobey, revenge for being a bother or inconvenience, revenge for a bad day or stress at work. Correction had little to do with correction and a lot to do with venting of anger and controlling through fear. It isn't about making you a better person. It's about making you a non-entity, one that does not require attention, one that keeps you in line without having to actually deal with you.
Unfortunately, punishment not only affects behavior. It affects identities.
Punishment tells a person he is a bother. It says a person is not worth the effort of correcting, only silencing. It strips a person of value and opens the door for shame and rejection. It is often unjust, cruel, and demeaning. The goal is to invoke fear and create thoughtless submission.
Exactly what part of that fits into the picture of God as love?
That is what the Bible says. "God is love (1 John 4:16)." So what part of fear, devaluing, shame, rejection, acting unjustly, or cruelty fits that picture of God?
Let's understand this "God is love" thing. We are talking about a God who put His own Son on a cross to die so people would not perish. What more could He do to scream, "You are valuable beyond anything you can imagine"? Where did Jesus ever respond to someone who came to Him and asked for forgiveness or healing by making them feel ashamed? When did someone reach out for Jesus or call out to Jesus and He reject them? When was Jesus ever cruel to anyone?
Now, some of you may be asking about the Old Testament and the judgment there. Have you ever really read the Old Testament? Have you ever noticed that when someone turned to God, even in the Old Testament, God responded? For instance, Nineveh which was known as a horrible, godless place, repented, and God responded. Hezekiah was going to die, but he turned his heart to God, and God gave him fifteen more years. Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho, but because she believed God, He saved her and even put her in the lineage of Christ.
Look through the Bible and find a place where God rejects someone who tried to repent. If you find it, share it with me. I won't hold my breath.
So if God isn't about punishment, what is He about?
Discipline is "the treatment suited to a disciple or learner; education; development of the faculties by instruction and exercise; training, whether physical, mental, or moral."
What a difference in outlook! Punishment sees people as a bother, but discipline sees people as learners in need of development through instruction and exercise. Punishment sees people as a liability, but discipline sees them as a valuable potential. Punishment teaches people to hide and be unseen, but discipline teaches them how to rise up and excel.
That means when God corrects someone He does it because He sees a valuable person with incredible potential who simply needs to learn a different way of doing things, maybe needs to develop a new way to deal with a problem. He doesn't see a problem. He sees an answer. He sees someone worth investing in, someone He believes can do better.
I fully believe the Lord disciplines us with joy because He knows each new thing we learn develops His character in us, and when that happens, we are freer, more joyful, and more productive.
When my children help around the house, whether that be in the kitchen or in the yard, I give them directions, not so they can be ashamed of what they don't know, but so they can learn something new, so next time they can be more efficient, safer, or more adventurous. My goal is not squelch their spirits but to give them freedom to move beyond their limited thinking or faulty solutions.
If I understand that is my role as a parent, how much more God?!
God's discipline is not cruel or devaluing. On the contrary, because He values us and sees value in us, He wants to free us from our limited thought processes and our broken ways of doing things. His purpose is not to invoke fear but to give freedom.
Yeah, I like God's correction. It means my life will be better, the heritage I leave with my children will be better than the one I received, I'll know how to relate to others better, the world will be better because I am revealing more of Him in it, and I will like me better, too. How could it get better than that? But then, that is how the blessings of God work, even the blessing of His discipline.