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Please be strict with me, is a brave prayer. As a recovering perfectionist, I don't like to do things wrong. This prayer is one that begs to have the wrong identified. I take solace in Psalm 139:23-24 --
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.This prayer has helped God's boundaries become more clear to me. It also makes me realize that although the boundaries have always been there and have always been the same, in order for me to feel secure within the boundaries, I have to desire to live within them. What makes me want to live according to strict standards?
The more I trust God, the more I want to remain within His boundaries. It is the process of testing and trusting, then learning and loving that I have reached a point of wanting God to be strict with me.
The same is true for adopting older children. The more they trust their parents, the more they desire to live within the boundaries. It takes a lot of testing for an older child to learn to trust a new set of parents. However, it is this process of testing and learning to know the boundaries never change that children learn to love. As their love and trust deepens, so does their willingness to live within the boundaries.
Sometimes it seems like a viscous circle. Not enough love...not enough trust...so the boundaries are challenged...again and again. Today we went to church a little early (since it was Jordan's birthday and he loves donuts) to have donuts and juice in the gathering area.
The boundaries are clearly defined and usually lived by -- our kids can have one thing...one donut, one glass of juice...one piece of fruit. The expectation is also that they ask first. Sometimes food is complicated for children with a hard history.
As we were chatting with friends, I noticed Jordan took a second donut. Then a glass of juice. Then another glass of juice. He was pouring his third glass when I asked him, "What's going on?"
"Juice," he grunted and guzzled the third glass. I tried to ignore the fire inside of me from the blatant disobedience.
We moved to the edge of the room, where we would be unnoticed and I knelt in front of him. I looked up into the birthday boy's eyes. The conversation followed a predictable structure:
Me: What's the problem?It seems so silly to be having this conversation about a donut and some glasses of juice. Later in the day we have the same conversation about chips. And again we have this conversation about wearing his good shoes out to play in the mud.
J: I took too much.
Me: What's the expectation?
J: One thing.
Me: Now what?
J: I broke trust instead of building it.
I remind myself that it's about so much more than donuts and chips and play shoes.
Buddy, when you do the things you know you shouldn't do, you break trust.
He hugs me and says he's sorry and the birthday goes on.
I remind myself that the expectations must remain no matter how many times they are repeated or whether it is a birthday or whether I'm tired and worn out. Hebrews 12:11 repeats itself in my mind --
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.I'm asking the Lord to be strict with me because I long for the peace that comes from learning to live within the boundaries. At the same time, I'm reminded discipline can come with a gentle and kind heart.