But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, ~Romans 3:21-24
Nothing gives me a better picture of my own sinfulness than parenting a 2 year old. Whenever I have had a child in this stage of learning, the Holy Spirit has used that child to prick my heart about the rawness and completeness of my own sin. All eight have displayed overt selfishness, great purpose and will for their plan, self focus and a propensity to believe they are right. There is no hiding their true feelings, no tempering of their belief system for social mandates or manners, no holding back of their thoughts. But in those moments of wrestling with this back-arching, screaming, precious bundle, the faithful voice of the Lord beckons me to see myself.
I have a natural suspicion of God that needs curing. My innate reflexive thought pattern is to assume that God’s rules inherently withhold from me something I would be better off having or prevent me from experiencing something that would be of value to me. Therefore disobedience is something that begins long before the disobedient act occurs. The doubt, distrust seep into my thinking, but I often cannot see or identify them before they produce actions. Sometimes these actions look like wise moves, but in actuality they are reactive and fear driven.
From the beginning the serpent used the ideas of missing out or being oppressed and the temptation to be independent of God. God was blocking Eve from experiencing real life, of being like God, of knowing good and evil – that was his argument. His whispers have not changed. They are easily identified in the rawness of rebellion in toddlers, but these whispers speak just as well to me.
But God’s grace and His patience with us is also greatly displayed in the working out of disciplining my toddlers. Scripture over and over refers to the steadfast love of the Lord that never ends, His mercy that renews, and His affection for His people. He will discipline. In truth, I desire the discipline, for it declares whose I am just as my engagement with my toddler shows my commitment to my little one. The heartbeat of discipline is not to invoke physical or emotional pain or suffering. When discipline occurs in this way, it is wrong and merely punishment. Discipline occurs within the context of relationship, powered by deep love and wisdom and bounded by grace and mercy. God disciplines us with great constraint and with great purpose. He is a good Father.
Eyes and body position in discipline are two things important both for disciplining children and for walking with Him. When I discipline my children, it’s important to give them a place to sit, reflect and wait for me away from all the distractions of the other kids, toys, etc. So in our home, our kids go sit in the bathroom where they are given some quiet moments, hopefully to think about why they may be in there and be ready for discussion when I come. Then I will sit down and ask them to put their hands on my knees – this connects and pulls us close together, aligning their wiggly bodies to face me. I ask them to look me in the eyes as we begin to talk and root out what was going on in their heart and motivating whatever symptoms that caused them to be here in discipline.
Then when they see the crushing truth of what they did, how it impacted others, and why they did it (because really the why is so much more important than the what), we talk about what Jesus did for them. That while they were yet sinners who pushed sisters or spoke rudely to brothers, Christ died for them with a deep love for them that they may be free from all the self focused, self protective impulses that drive hearts to rebellion. I want their eyes to see in my own the hope and love that center on Jesus alone.
My love for them hasn’t changed despite their ugly, but more importantly and more profoundly Jesus has never withdrawn His love. He extends it in the face of rebellion and rejection. We leave the bathroom with the blessing of belief. Imparting to that child the hope of walking with Jesus anew in His deep love and affection echoes the deep love and affection I have for that child.
In my daily busyness of life, I find it very hard to hear the corrections of the Holy Spirit. I need consistent space to withdraw into the quiet of moments before Him, Bible open and heart listening. My quieted position before God gives me space and silence to hear His truth about what I have believed and acted upon in error or rebellion.
My eyes on my circumstances results in justification and rationalization. My eyes on Jesus will see His truth in comparison to the lies I have believed in the moment.
The essence of discipline is this: God walking alongside me exploring the sin of my flesh that causes the negative behavior/choices I make and helping me to understand the lies I have believed in the heart of me. He meets the sin and the lies with truth. He doesn’t flinch or turn away in disgust.
And He tells me to look in His eyes and see the steadfast love that stays there just for me. The love that took all this ugly to the cross, nailed it there, and canceled my debts cures me. He desires that I walk out of His bathroom cleansed, with a renewed sense of His love and forgiveness.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness. ~1 John 1:9