RUSTON, La. (BP) -- My daughter, Makaylan, is 1 year old. As a result, my husband and I have entered a new phase of parenting -- the discipline stage.
Right now her biggest temptation is the electrical sockets. Though we have them covered, we still do not want her to play with them. We know that one day we will go visit friends who do not child-proof their homes, and we do not want her getting into the habit of playing with something that is potentially dangerous. But, every time she passes an electrical socket, she cannot resist the urge to touch it.
The first day she discovered her new "favored" toy, I spent most of my day bent over her, removing her hand from the socket, and repeating, "No ma'am." During one instance, my husband counted how many times I gave her this instruction, and I repeated it 15 times before she finally became frustrated and moved on. God has used these experiences to convict me of my own sin and temptations in life.
So what can a 1-year-old teach you about discipline and discipleship? More than you can imagine.
The first thing I have learned is that God's discipline is always for my good and for His glory. The writer of Hebrews gives a great description of God's discipline when He says, "For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives" (Hebrews 12:6). He goes on to say, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). In the original language, the word "trained" is the Greek word "gymnazo," which means "to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind." Gymnazo is where we get our English word "gymnasium." A gymnasium is a place of training. I played sports throughout high school and nearly two years of college; therefore, I am accustomed to the regimented and strenuous training that must occur in order to perform well. No athlete would dare go into a competition without first disciplining his or her body.
In the same way, God uses His discipline to train our hearts and our bodies to be submissive to His perfect will in order that His righteousness might be displayed in our lives.
I want my daughter to grow up to be a woman who loves and serves God with a submissive heart, but this submission does not come naturally. We are all tempted by certain lusts of the flesh, and sometimes it is difficult to pass up those opportunities to sin. God continues to remind me that in order for me to teach her how to submit to Christ, I must first submit myself under His Lordship. It is amazing how children can pick up on their parents' lack of obedience. We cannot expect our children to be obedient to our instruction if we are not being obedient and submissive to God's instruction. It first begins with us.
The second lesson I have learned is that discipline takes time. Too often I have seen parents "discipline" their children from the couch with a remote control in hand. In all honesty, that is the easiest thing to do. But, God commands us to train our children and not just to shout orders at them. I am so thankful that God does not discipline me haphazardly. Hebrews 5:8 says that Jesus "learned obedience through what He suffered." Jesus, while in the flesh, had to learn to be obedient to the Father's instruction. God allows temptations and difficult seasons into our lives in order to train us to trust in Him and obey Him. Scripture shows that no difficulty or temptation comes into our lives without first passing through the Father's approval (Job 1:6-12). Learning obedience and submission takes a lifetime; therefore, careful instruction must be given in order to ensure growth in maturity.
For example, right now Makaylan is fighting the battle against the electric socket, but when she grows up she will have other temptations that will be more dangerous. If we are not diligent to train her in the small things, through discipline, then she will never learn self-control and submission for when the bigger temptations arise. She needs "hands-on discipline," meaning we must show her exactly what we expect and not just verbally rebuke her actions. God continues to show me that I need the same thing. I need for Him to show me, through His Word and through my situations, exactly what He expects of me.
The goal is to grow in Christlikeness. As my husband and I enter this stage of disciplining our daughter, I will admit that it is not a fun stage ... and we are only at the beginning. I would much rather wrap Makaylan in my arms and snuggle with her than be firm about what she can and cannot do. But God has given us this precious child in order for us to train her according to His Word and His commands. As we train and discipline our daughter, it has been a blessing to get a glimpse into the heart of our Heavenly Father.
Though God's discipline is not always pleasant, it is exactly what I need. I want to encourage you (and me) not to run from the Father's discipline, for by it, He is producing within us the fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)
Amanda Walker is in the Doctorate of Educational Ministries program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Her greatest joy is serving alongside her husband who is the University Minister at Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, and being the mother of two beautiful daughters. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org
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