Discipline is a necessary pat of raising any child. At some point you’ve probably heard someone on a television program jokingly say “this is gonna hurt me more than you” before dishing out punishment to a child. I’ve come to realize that this may be closer to the truth than I ever believed when I was on the receiving end of my Father’s discipline.
It is never easy to punish a child that you love. My heart hurts a little every time, but sometimes it hurts for very different reasons. When I punish Janna for disobedience or hitting or something else, it hurts me to see her cry. It breaks my heart to watch her sit in the corner with that pitiful look on her face. But in the end I know I have done the right thing – that she is learning good lessons about what is or is not proper behavior.
The other type of hurt I experience is very different, and comes when I reflect on how I might have been more patient, or how I have at times punished her more out of frustration rather than giving her a second chance to change her behavior.
Our Heavenly Father must experience some of these same emotions when he disciplines his children. In many circles there is a lot of emphasis placed on the wrath of God, often seen as an expression of his righteousness. Though scripture is clear that God’s wrath will come to those who are disobedient to him, I am struck by just how hesitant God is in unleashing his wrath. He gives every opportunity for those who are disobedient to turn their faces toward him and repent. Only after affording opportunity after opportunity does he act swiftly and justly against the ungodly.
This is never more apparent than with the Incarnation of Christ. Broken covenant after broken covenant have come and gone until this last and standing covenant remains. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. We must turn from our wicked ways, repent, and follow him or suffer the eternal discipline of the Father.
As a child of God, a believer in Christ Jesus, the life of Jesus, his death, and resurrection stand as my hope and my joy. As a father, they stand as a potent reminder that discipline must be given, but it should not be given hastily.
When Janna has been punished, she comes to me seeking approval and love. She wants to know that her Daddy still thinks she is the most special little girl in the world. She wants to know that I am not disappointed in her.
When Janna comes to me for these things, I give them whole-heartedly because they are all truly and most passionately felt. I love her.
When we come to the Father in broken repentance, seeking his forgiveness and love, he offers it freely as well. And he goes one step farther than we mere humans can – he forgets the transgression forever more. His love is that rich and that deep.
When I reflect on how my Father in Heaven has taught and disciplined me throughout the years, I could become bitter, thinking him overly harsh. But when I reflect on his infinite love expressed through his righteous discipline, I have only one thought and desire.
I want to be a father like that someday.