You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. [Deuteronomy 8:2-6]
The word discipline is a weird one for me. Because when I think of discipline, I instinctively think of punishment. I think of parents disciplining their children. Spankings, being grounded, removal of the television and phone, etc, etc. Only when I became a teacher did I start looking at the word discipline in a different light.
Disciple. Student. Pupil. Teach.
I think constantly about the different between punishment and discipline when I’m teaching. I’m learning that they’re two very different things, and they create two very different kinds of students. Punishment lords over you. Punishment uses words like “deserve.” So if you’re bad, you deserve punishment. The problem with that, though, is that we start to equate every bad thing in our life with being punished. When things don’t work out to our liking, we wonder what we did wrong.
I think this is a problem for believers. Kind of a big one, actually. We start thinking in terms of rearranging our behavior in order to stop the punishment and create a better situation for ourselves, instead of thinking in terms of rearranging our behavior in order to be more like Christ. That’s what punishment does. It causes one to fear the punishment…but little else.
But discipline. Discipline is a whole different animal. Discipline comes alongside and models and teaches and instructs. Discipline uses hard times to teach us how to live. Just like Jesus did with his–get this–disciples. Life with Jesus wasn’t punishment for them, despite the fact that I’m certain it wasn’t easy and many of them died as a direct result of their life with Jesus. But life with Jesus–it certain is a form of discipline, or a process of discipleship if you will. A studying, a learning, a growing.
I feel like I’m in the middle of the wilderness a lot these days, being disciplined by an Abba who knows exactly what I need to learn and exactly how to teach me. And He knows well that it’s not through ease that I will learn to be like Him. So sometimes these days feel dark and uncertain. He’s showing me my weaknesses, and making me face them with a humble heart. Making me walk through the desert with them on one side and Himself on the other. And some days it hurts. Some days it feels very much like punishment.
But in the middle of the wilderness, I know He’s feeding me food that myself and many before me have never been aware of. He’s teaching me. He’s giving me exactly what I need for the given day. And as I learn from Him, as I come to know His heart, I start to trust Him in the middle of the desert.