Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
When I get to this part of the Bible the temptation to focus on verses five and six is very strong, because I have loved them for many years and we have even used them as the Scripture for the Year fairly recently. However, these two verses are also massively important, and are also quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6, which are part of another dearly loved passage. The Bible is so rich, and filled with truth that indeed sets us free! People who fail to take this passage (and the longer exposition in Hebrews) to heart are often captive to resentment and a feeling of “Why me?” That’s no way to live a happy, fulfilled life! We have a tendency to want to think we are the ultimate authority in life, when nothing could be further from the truth. Just as a child has to learn that they are not their parent (and are therefore not in charge) we have to learn that we are not God, or even anywhere close to being Him. One of the challenges of parenting is knowing how much explanation to give your children for your decisions and edicts. “Because I say so” is a perfectly valid answer at times, but not all the time, particularly as the children get older. We do have to remember, and acknowledge, that unlike God we are not perfect; we make mistakes. However, leaving the decision up to the child, particularly too early or too often, can cause real damage. We are all born with an innate need for boundaries, and lack of them can be devastating. That’s precisely what this passage is talking about. God is indeed the perfect Parent, and He knows that we need to learn to decide on our own to do what is right. That’s what free will is all about. However, He also knows that we need training in making right decisions, just as any child does, and that’s what discipline is all about.
My children would probably be the first to tell you I’ve not been the perfect father, but since they’re both in their late 40s with children of their own, they have also expressed gratitude to Cathy and me for doing our best. That has certainly been gratifying! As a pastor I have been called on to do marriage and parenting seminars, and I call on both my successes and my failures to do those. Some of the things I know now, I learned because I didn’t know them before! I remember the absurdity of taking a class in Early Childhood Development in seminary that was taught by a professor who not only had no children, she was young and single! Some of her pronouncements were so ungrounded in reality that some of the older students, with multiple children, literally walked out of class in disgust. She only had a theoretical understanding of the subject matter, and some of those theories were downright wrong. I must not be like that, but share in all humility what God has taught me, at the same time learning to be a better child of God myself, for the benefit of everyone involved.
Father, thank You for Your patience with me over the years, and for how You have grown and trained me, sometimes over my strong objections! Help me keep growing to be a more effective channel of Your love and grace to those around me, for their blessing and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!