Read Hebrews 12
Focus on verse 5-6
I had a father who I know loved me because he made the effort to discipline me. I’m not suggesting he did that all perfectly, but I appreciate that he gave it his best effort. I have since met folks who either had an absentee father, or one who had no idea how to discipline children. In nearly every case what amazes me most is how resilient the human spirit is in the midst of relational dysfunction. Many of these people turn out surprisingly well adjusted all things considered.
I was fortunate to have a father that loved his family, even if he didn’t always get it right. It is often a long hard road for children who grow up with serious dysfunction, some never fully recover, while others seemingly miraculously manage to come through it with relatively few ongoing issues.
Notice that I avoided using the word “normal” as a descriptor. This was intentional because when it comes to how we grow up and the characters we become, there may well be an average, but I defy anyone to describe a normal person. To me normal was what I experienced. To you normal is what you experienced. See the problem? Which one is really normal? Either we are all normal or no one is. In this case I’m going to suggest that no one is really “normal” as any of us would define it.
Getting back to discipline, which is what ultimately defined the parameters of normal for most of us – in today’s reading the writer of Hebrews reminds us that God, like a loving father, disciplines those He loves.
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (v. 5-6)
In other words, if God is not disciplining us it can only mean one of two things. Either we are walking in flawless obedience, or perhaps we are not really His children. Discipline is something that we rarely appreciate at the time it is being administered, but in time we come to to understand and appreciate that it was administered for our benefit. When a child is very young and learning how to explore the world around him or her, it is not uncommon for them to desire to try things that could be potentially harmful, like playing on a busy street. A loving parent will implement an appropriate form of discipline to impress upon the child that streets are not playgrounds because it is dangerous for them to be playing in the traffic. While the child may resist the correction and not understand why they can’t play on the street until that are a little older, it is still in their best interests to heed the discipline of the parent.
There are times when God corrects us, that we do not understand why, because we do not see the same picture God sees. As we learn to trust Him, both the frequency and the intensity of His discipline will likely diminish because as we learn to trust God, we also learn to walk more closely in obedience to his will. We are not yet perfected, so we still fail, but frequency and intensity of our failures also diminishes as we learn to walk more closely with Him. It is actually very similar to the way a healthy relationship between a father and child becomes closer as the child matures. It changes from the father administering correction, to offering guidance, to mutual encouragement and exhortation. When discipline is properly administered, it eventually becomes unnecessary.