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 12:11 (NIV)
Phyllis is my trainer, but she’s not what you think. You see, I have two wonderful dogs, Edward and Frances, who have not yet learned that I am the Boss. And so we have Phyllis. One might think she is here to train Edward and Frances, but that would be incorrect. Phyllis is training me.
I am learning that when Edward licks me, he is not showing his affection; he is demonstrating his dominance. When Frances dashes ahead of me on walks and pulls at the leash, I am following her. This has become her walk, not mine. And so Phyllis is training me.
This training is not exactly fun, but I am discovering that the more consistent I become, the better my dogs behave. I don’t like having to give reminders or having to reinforce “the rules,” but Edward and Frances are happier and more obedient when they realize I am in charge.
It’s not a big leap to see how this can apply to our daily journey of faith. However, unlike us, God never wearies of disciplining his children, of correcting us, and he doesn’t let our bad behavior slide. As we respond to his “training,” our trust is built, our faith is strengthened, our security is increased, and our behavior is greatly improved.
John talks about discipline as “pruning.” The branches of the vine are strengthened when the old dead wood is cut out and the unproductive branches are trimmed back. Of course, this is painful, and we may wonder what we’ve done to deserve such treatment. Instead, we should remind ourselves that discipline is intended for our enrichment. It causes us to produce more fruit, righteousness and peace, and eventually brings glory to God.
(I can draw parallels with Frances and Edward. I envision a time when I won’t have to explain to passing walkers that Frances’ jumping and barking at them just indicates she wants to be friendly. And that when Edward tries to vault onto the cabinet, it’s only because he’s interested in what I’m cooking. Yes, I look forward to the time when I can enjoy the results of discipline.)
Father, thank you for teaching us your truths through the things we experience around us every day. Thank you for putting people in our lives to shine lights on our blind spots. Help us to submit to your training for your glory and our peace. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.