When I think of discipline, the first image that comes to mind is that of a stern-faced teacher, bun on head and ruler in hand; ready to give any disobedient children a firm smack on the back of the hand with it. It's strange that I would imagine this, as I was born in the 80s, well after the abolishment of corporal punishment in the classroom. Yet further pondering conjures up other like images. The frowning father, the perpetually disappointed mother, and the most frightening of all -- the freedom snatching, fun-restricting God.
This image of a stern, boring God that doesn't know how to have any fun has been lurking in the dark corners of my mind for some time now. I can even tell you what he looks like! He's so blindingly bright and neck-straining tall that it's impossible to really see him. He sits on a grand stone chair and has a long white beard that touches the floor. He speaks guilt, fear, and inadequacy into people's hearts. The question is, how did this image that causes me to fear God's discipline plant itself in my mind in the first place? Perhaps that's a question for another post, another day.
I am so thankful God doesn't just sit unattached and pristine in a grand stone chair, but that he bears the scars of my inadequacy. The very inadequacy that proves I am in need of discipline; that I am imperfect. Praise God for his discipline, because I am not strong enough to live up to my full potential without it.
In elaborating on that last sentence, let me say that lately I have been aware of a glaring divide between who I am and who I want to be. The person I want to be is someone who speaks Chinese, professes her beliefs boldly, exercises regularly, writes novels, blesses all who come in contact with her, and more. I am weak, and riddled with doubts and shortcomings. How can I ever be strong enough to overcome myself (the greatest barrier to my success) if I'm without God's help and discipline?
The only way to see God's discipline for the blessing that it is requires that we oust the image of God as the strict, grumpy old man and replace it with that of a loving parent who wants the best for us. Of course the grumpy old man will make appearances from time to time, but recognize him for what he is -- our culture's ignorant, guilt-induced view of God, not the God who sent his son to die for you. And from now on, refuse to think of discipline as punishment. Rather, think of it as a remedy for an illness; something that's meant to attack a virus and heal you so that you're better than before. And always remember that like any good parent, God disciplines those he loves (Proverbs 3:12). So swallow that pride, and embrace God's discipline so that you may have the life that he envisions for you; something more beautiful and worthwhile than you could ever envision for yourself!