I was 6 years old and I had disobeyed. I had done something that deserved punishing. This is no surprise. I have a knack for disrupting harmony and have been honing my skill from a very young age. At age 3, when told to not throw a frisbee in the house, I flung it full force and hit my dad between the eyes. By age 6 I was a maniac. The crime escapes my memory for this story, but the punishment surely does not…
The disobedient act has been committed and I receive the dreaded words from my dad. “Go to your room and get ready to get spanked.” I’m not sure how most kids take these words but I leap into action. I run full speed to my room, fling open the top drawer nearly knocking myself unconscious (a state that would be welcomed with open arms), and pull out every pair of underwear I own. I take off my jeans as fast as humanly possible. Then I systematically put on each pair of those underwear. Spiderman on. Michael Jordan on. Plain white on. Sixteen pairs later, jeans back on, I am ready for my spanking. I will not feel the sting of the hand, belt, paddle, or whatever the weapon of choice is today. No sir. I am ready.
My father walks into the room–his 6 foot 3 inch frame is not going to be for wrestling or tickling or throwing baseball in this moment. No, today he is the cruel judge. His looped black belt is drooping at his side forming a crooked smile. Judgement time. I am ready. Our eyes meet. I am distraught but hopeful that my preparation will pay off. His voice pierces the silence. “Son, pull your pants down and lean over the bed.” I freeze. My 6 year old brain has not accounted for this. My evil scheme will surely be seen now. There is no way to hide 16 pairs of underwear. So down they go around my ankles. I close my eyes as tight as possible. I don’t want to see his reaction. I wait an eternity. Nothing. Then the sound of labored breathing behind me. My dad has seen my trick. Is he getting ready to deliver the blow of his life? More heavy breaths coming from his nostrils. My bare butt exposed, I brace myself. He finally breathes through his mouth and breaks the labored cadence. He is laughing. Hard. But he doesn’t want me to hear. He tries with maximum effort to hold it in but it is completely futile. He belly laughs–the kind of laugh that comes from your soul–at the sight of his son with 16 pairs of underwear around his little ankles. One half-hearted swing of the belt later and it’s over. He hugs me in the way only a dad can. A full, life-enveloping hug. And he laughs. And I laugh.
The writer of Hebrews gives us this encouragement: “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 and punishes everyone he accepts as a son” (Hebrews 12:5-6).
We all have a propensity for harmony disruption. We do dumb stuff. A lot. And God wants to gently correct us and show us what it means to be His sons and daughters. He wants us to be fully human in the way He intends it. But we have an imperfect view of God. We believe him to be a malevolent dictator or a careful rule-keeper. We forget that God is a loving father that seeks relationship with us. That relationship must include discipline. But just like the 6-year-old version of me, we run. We try to evade God’s hand of discipline. So we wrap our butts in every possible article of little luxuries or distractions we can find. But the father sees and (it’s a leap but just go with me) he laughs. He strips us until we are naked and away from any measure of protection we can devise in our own childish minds and He lovingly corrects us and wraps us up in his arms in a way that we can not put into words. He comforts us at the deepest and most intimate level. That is relationship.
Stop running. Stop trying to protect yourself from what you desperately need. In an attempt to protect yourself from the hand of discipline, you shield yourself from to the hand that loves, heals, and mends that which is broken. Let the Father love you.