Grace: Age 3
It was one of those days. A day of tantrums and testing. Grace was in an utter state of rebellion. I liken the battle to subvert the sin in her heart to that of the 101st Airborn on the eve of defending Bastogne in World War II. General McCollough’s orders are clear: “You do what you have to do- But you hold this line.”
“Hold the line!” These are the words I say to myself when we enter the battleground of rebellion. These are the words I say to Doug and to every parent I see in exasperation as they fight to train up and civilize their children. “Hold the Line!” If we imagine this is anything less than warfare- real spiritual warfare, we are fooling ourselves!
When the exhaustion of the day came to a close I tucked Gracie in bed. While it was a tough day of battle, our love was not diminished. As we snuggled she gently pressed her hand to my cheek and whispered: “You were a good Mama today.”
Wow. The depth of that statement plunged into my heart. This was more than an affirmation from my child for good discipline. This was more than affirmation from the Lord encouraging me as a parent. I realized this was a deep spiritual truth about our relationship with The Lord. When we face His rebuke in the spiritual warfare against our own sin— how do we react?
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. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
This is a tough truth. How often do I find myself either in rebellion or despair over the Lord’s rebuke? More often than I care to admit. But the truth is, as we move deeper into relationship with our Father, He does more to reveal our besetting sins and our unhealthy idols. He “disciplines” us toward His righteousness.
Doug and I both considered this and each had a moment recently where the Lord was clearly disciplining and refining us. We wanted to share them with you…
One afternoon Doug and I met up for lunch. As his truck pulled in the parking lot there was a moment of chaos- horns blaring- a near collision- a car zipped by in a hurry. The woman driving jumped out and said “Sorry, I thought you were in the drive-thru line.” Doug emerged from his truck with anger and indignation. “I was NOT in the drive through line! You’re in THAT much of a hurry??!!!” He seethed. She was clearly flustered, turned around and left without even placing an order. As Doug fumed I tried to calm him saying, “Its ok! There was no accident!” After a little more venting he admitted he overacted, and we thought this incident was over. WRONG! The Lord saw an opportunity to admonish Doug and reveal a significant truth.
I went back to work and found this email:
Hello Monica. You spoke at our MOPS meeting 2 weeks ago and I found your presentation to be beautiful and inspiring. Today your husband (I’m assuming) yelled at me in the Chik-fil-a parking lot. I am not writing to say who was right or wrong…. People make mistakes everyday.
Uh-Oh. This was not some random encounter with a nameless face that would never be seen again. This was someone who knew us and was probably thinking: “Well, aren’t these people supposed to be Christians????”
I think we forget other Christians are not perfect. We aren’t very good at extending His grace to those who “trespass against us.” Of course we are “ok” with admitting WE are not perfect Christians, but the funny thing is, we use our imperfection to justify and gloss over our sin, while holding others fully accountable for theirs. What’s worse, when we do this, we refuse to allow the Lord access to discipline and refine us. In this incident; however, Doug could not escape the obvious way the Lord was speaking to him. He came to realize there was no such thing as “anonymity.” Even if the woman we encountered had no clue who we were, if he never saw her again, the truth is— God knew who Doug was… He saw how Doug treated this woman… and He was not pleased by his son’s lack of grace.
Ouch. That hurts.
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves… For what son is not disciplined by his father…. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12: 5-6; 11-13) (NIV)
As much as God’s discipline hurts, it also has the power to heal and bear a harvest of righteousness… Amen!
It’d be unfair to say that Doug & Gracie were the only ones in this family who need rebuking! I have a confession too. Recently I was at a ladies’ event for church. Among other sisters-in-Christ where else I should I feel more secure? But I didn’t. I was the “new girl” and didn’t really know anyone. I walked into this event not at all resting in my identity in Christ. I was totally insecure and all I could think was how all these ladies were prettier and funnier, more stylish, and “together” than me….UGH!
C.S. Lewis once said Comparison is the thief of joy. I have to confess any bit of joy I might have had that evening was totally sucked dry by all the time I spent “comparing.” But it gets worse! I got into a conversation with a beautiful woman. We realized we had George Mason University in common and might know each other from there. I asked when she graduated. She replied; “I got my Undergrad in 2000.” And this was my response: “Oh, I wouldn’t have known you then, I already had my Master’s Degree.”
What was that?! That was me so caught up in comparison that I desperately had to grab on to some earthy idol to define my worth— “OK! Let’s pull that Master’s Degree off the wall, dust it off… Well, I may not be as cute or classy, stylish or funny, but look at this—- I’m SMART!”
OK, I make fun of my own sin because it helps me deal with it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously. The second those words came out of my mouth I felt a dart of conviction from the Lord pierce my heart, because I knew what those words meant. I knew I had been placing my many idols above the One True God.
When you put us through the fire to purge us from our sin, our dearest idols go up in smoke. Psalm 39:11(MSG)
As that dart of conviction hit my heart I watched my dearest idols go up in smoke… beauty, wealth, intellect…. what was my silly Master’s Degree in comparison to the unsurpassing and extravagant love of God?
Ouch. This was not a fun moment in my walk with the Lord, but boy was it necessary!
Look at Hebrews 12 again, this time from The Message translation:
So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects…. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us…. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun… Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
It’s that last piece I love best— finding ourselves “mature” in our relationship with God.
Are we growing up in the Lord? Do we let Him in, allow Him access to our hearts to admonish us, discipline and refine us, train us in his righteousness and crush the idols of our hearts? When we find ourselves at the center of his rebuke and discipline do we engage in self-justification, run in denial, shrug it off, or wallow crushed in self-pity? Or do we embrace it and allow his loving hands to mold us to his likeness, teach us His wisdom, give us freedom, and heal us from the crippling power of sin? Are we honest with ourselves when he points out our sins? Do we take His rebuke and repent— earnestly change? Are we fighting alongside Him to “hold the line” in the battle against our own sin?
After a rough day of enduring His discipline do we have the undiminished love and courage to crawl into The Father’s arms and say…
“Abba, Father— You were a good Daddy today.”
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.
So be earnest, and repent.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.…