God's Rod

"He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently." Proverbs 13:24

The operative word in this proverb is "discipline." Too often it is lost in the rush to reach for the "rod." It was never meant to be a tool for tyrants and rage-a-holics posing as parents.

I saw the rod used sparingly, but effectively while serving in East Africa from 1972-1974. One day a group of children gathered around us while we were field dressing a Zebra after a hunt outside of Arusha. This was a big deal for them, and like children everywhere they began to get rambunctious and were close to becoming a hazard as they pushed and played around the kill zone. In the distance an old man wrapped in a red cloak carrying a walking stick could be seen approaching. The children began to disperse slowly until only one persistent, and particularly annoying child was left. We began to converse with the man after he arrived, and he announced he was the elder, or chief of this area. We offered him a portion of the kill, and continued our work. I heard a "whack" sound and looked up and the kid that had been in the way, was walking away from the Zebra rubbing his head. With lightning speed, and not a word spoken the elder had delivered a disciplined blow to the hard-headed child. Nothing abusive, just quick and to the point. The word was out on the old man, and the others had gotten the message on some other occasion. This last kid had stayed after school and learned not to embarrass the village. I'm not sellin', just sayin'...

The Americanized version of Samuel Butler's 1682 satirical poem is usually confused with Scripture: "Spare the rod and spoil the child." This is often repeated under-the-breath style by observers of the never-ending "kids rule" temper tantrums thrown in public. Before cell phone cams, security cameras and a public ban on spanking, it was once spoken by parents before, during and immediately after whacking their wayward child in public. Now it is the least quoted proverb in America. It has been replaced by PCC...Politically Correct Countdown. You have heard it in movie theatres, stores and churches all over the land. It goes something like this, "Now________(Fill in the blank with Trevor, Buffy, Scotty, Sky, Star, Willow, Wiccan, Precious, Princess, or a host of other new age namesakes), I'm going to count to three." Then parents expose the extent of their parenting skills with an extended "WWWWWWWUUUNNN, TWOOOOOOOOOOOOOO,..Don't make me count to three, (breath) THREEEEEEEEEEEEEE....(Still countng.) Meanwhile, everyone within the sound of the ear-piercing screams of another child gone wild is looking for an exit or a big stick. Makes me long for East African discipline.

I recenlty discovered that National Spank Out Day is held each year on my birthday, April 30th.
My parents didn't celebrate this in our home, not even on my birthday. Sounds like a great plan if spanking is replaced by sound discipline. More likely it will be replaced by the deafening sound of silence.

Paul Burleson, once shared with me that parents make the greatest mistake when they treat their children the same. I was a young father at the time and this caught my attention. He said that he had men come to him over the years with the lament, "I don't know what happened to my kids, I treated them all the same." His response was priceless. He would remind them that they know enough about hunting not to treat their dogs the same. They get a good hunting dog by getting them to do what they want done, but going about it a different way depending on the personality traits of the dog. Wise man that Paul Burleson.

Oscar Thompson, my evangelism professor in seminary gave me the best definition of "disciple" I have ever heard. I find it interesting that you can hardly write the word "discipline" without spelling the word "disciple." Dr. Thompson described a disciple as a life long learner who has

  1. A personal relationship with the teacher
  2. Allows the teacher to exercise authority and jurisdiction over their lives
  3. A willingness to face persecution for what they believe

Another one of my heroes, Bill Stafford, taught me, "God's purpose for you is to knock you out of you, so He can fill you with Himself. So get over yourself and accept what God is up to in your life." Sounds remarkably close to what we read in the Word of God. Way to go "Wild Bill."

"For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines." Hebrews 12:6

"Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?" Hebrews 12:9

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Hebrews 12:11

Ok, got to wrap this up. Proverbs is not about giving us permission to knock the stuffing out of our kids. Nor does it rule out the use of the rod in a restrictive and constructive way. It challenges and encourages parents that they will get the desired results when they "seek him diligently with discipline." Parenting is not for the faint of heart or the weak of knees. Get with God in prayer and find out what He has planned for your child. Pray for and with your child to find God's direction and correction. Cooperate with Him to bring about His best in your child. Note: Before our girls would leave our home for date, slumber party, school or whatever, we would pray with them and let them hear us ask God to let them get caught when they did something wrong. They hated it then, but they love to remind us of it now. God answers prayer. Case closed. 'Nuff said.

It is also a reminder to every Christ follower of God's diligence to discipline His kids no matter who they are or how old they are. God knows us so well. We sometimes envy how He works in another person's life. They are having a party in their life and God wants us to take out the garbage in ours.

Ever hear a kid say,"Snot fair!" You have probably said it yourself recently. The truth of the matter is that same pruning process that you envy would not bring about the best fruit in you. This lesson is hard to learn and even harder to accept. When God desires to bring about a change in you, He will do whatever it takes to knock you out of you. His process results in your progress. Don't hang around the zebra too long. You'll need a helmet and alot of ice. Whack! Whew, that's gonna leave a mark!