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As an eternal optimist, I tend to downplay the impact of early experiences in life. I like to think that the present matters much more than the past. I believe there is nothing too big, too horrible, too damaging that love cannot overcome. I will concede that human love is not enough. It takes the divine love of a Savior to fully overcome and heal from hard histories.
There is also a very good reason why toddlers are small. It is a natural tendency to want to exert independence, test boundaries, and make our own choices. When this happens, sometimes just asking a toddler to obey isn't enough. Free will is powerful and many times parents have to physically help a toddler obey -- hence the reason for their size. When toddlers are disciplined, they learn to control their free will. They learn to trust their parents to have their best interests in mind. They learn to love others more than themselves. Discipline provides boundaries and security.
When children don't learn to obey, their free will often runs wild and becomes self-serving. This doesn't make them incapable of learning to obey or learning self-control. As a realist, I understand that this might make it a little more difficult. Instead of simply learning to obey, they first must unlearn misconceptions about discipline and love and boundaries. Then they can learn to obey.
It takes time and tenacity and the learning to obey looks ugly. Very ugly. It might add a lot of stress to parents (and to this momma in particular).
Hebrews 12:11 says, "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."
Kids who are adopted as older children are not the only ones who have a hard time with discipline. It is a painful process -- painful, but purposeful and productive. It is through discipline that we gain peace. It is also a means to healing. Without discipline, it is impossible to learn to obey.
When we learn to obey, we learn to trust more. This growing of trust is the reason why discipline leads to righteousness, peace, and healing.
Discipline isn't easy. In fact, throughout Hebrews 12, the word endure is repeated. Discipline is hard and there is an endurance that is needed for obedience and righteousness, peace, and healing to happen. I need this reminder today.
I need it as I continue to insist on obedience from our children. And I need it as God continues to insist on obedience from me. It makes it a little easier when I remember that parents only discipline children they love. It is this love that builds trust and claims a child. I'm hoping these words stick with me today:
How blessed the man you train, God, the woman you instruct in your Word,
Providing a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil...
-- Psalm 24:12-13 (MSG)