I had to will myself to write this afternoon. I didn’t want to. Because I am writing on my daughter’s computer because I no longer have one. I am trying not to allow this great disappointment to crush me. I am doing my best to forgive and move on, doing what I know I need to do and feel compelled to do in any way possible after my computer was murdered in Florida by my own son.
My son had a meltdown in Florida. Several hours worth of one. This time, I did not give in. I am beginning to see how manipulated I can be by his emotional storms, and this time, I wasn’t having any of it. So when he picked up my computer and acted like he was going to throw it on the ground, I didn’t even flinch. I told him I didn’t care if he threw it on the ground, I still wasn’t caving.
Unfortunately, my son doesn’t have a bluff. He gets that from me. He unrepentedly slammed my computer on the ground. In that moment, I lost so much more than a piece of technological convenience. I lost weeks worth of writing I hadn’t uploaded to my onedrive. It hurt so bad. On the inside. My outward demeanor was placid. Hours later, after the tantrum was over and he was lying in bed sick to his stomach because of his behavior, he asked me to forgive him. In my house, it’s what you do. Not just saying “I’m sorry,” but seeking forgiveness. And the only proper response to someone seeking forgiveness is to do exactly what Jesus would do. Forgive immediately. I did that. The consequences of his actions are still hurting me, even though he’s moved on. And I love that he’s not carrying a burden over it. I love that my son is free, even if his actions have caused a wide ripple I have to deal with.
But of course, there are consequences. He is forgiven, but he will be working to pay off a new computer. I will not hold this sin over his head, but I will require him to work off the cost of a new computer, and when he asks for something, I will remind him that my number one financial need after we pay our bills and eat is a new computer. Not because I don’t like my son, but because I want him to understand the far-reaching impact his decisions have before more meaningful decisions arise in his life.
I’m beginning to understand discipline in the context of a loving relationship. The world would have us believe that discipline is bad. That it’s damaging. I have to disagree.
I’ve never been a strong disciplinarian. I’m a single mom and I live by the motto, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I have always struggled to care enough, after work and all the chores afterward at home, to address my kids’ need for discipline. I waited for things to blow over and went on with life. That’s how I ended up where I am now. My daughter governs herself well, due to her strong relationship with her daddy God. My son, on the other hand, has seen my lack of authority and has become a master at manipulating me. It took years for me to recognize how played I am.
This whole issue of discipline was something of a summer learning experience between the Lord and I. Because “the Lord disciplines those he loves.” I love my son. He’s one of the greatest treasures I’ve ever received. As I began to recognize the paths he seems drawn to, and petitioning God daily, “Please, Lord, don’t let my son turn out a fool!” God drew my attention back to myself in relation to who my son is becoming. “What are you doing to draw him back to safety? What needs to change and what can you do to affect that change?”
Shortly after this prayer, I found myself outside cleaning up the yard to mow. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a black and brown bullet zoom past my house and realized my dog had gotten out. I have spent so many hours and tears trying to keep this dog in the yard and right when I have things figured out, someone leaves the gate open! I had to stop what I was doing, grab his leash and go get him. So afterward, I found the kid responsible for this diversion and told him he’d be finishing up the yard cleaning while I started mowing. Expecting him to do what I said quickly because his dad was on the way, I was surprised to get mostly done with the yard before I realized he cleaned up only until I couldn’t see him anymore then he hightailed it inside and grabbed his things. He was long gone before I got to his unfinished mess.
Exasperated, I looked up to God and whispered through clenched teeth, “How do I discipline effectively?”
Are you prepared for this? I mean, really? Because what I felt led to do was so opposed to how I imagine someone might have handled this. You see, I called my son and asked him why he didn’t finish. He told me he didn’t see anything else. There was an entire tree branch in the yard!
I put it in his bed.
I knew he’d see it there, and I knew he’d have to move it. Most importantly, I wanted him to understand how inconvenient that tree branch was to me after he left. I wanted him to feel that inconvenience and begin to think about how his actions effected me. So I picked up the tree branch, and all the other little chitlin lying around and deposited it all on his silky brown sheet.
While picking up all the stuff he “didn’t see,” I gathered some rather messy, dry, leafy twigs to go with it all but the Lord stopped me. He asked, “Do you want to discipline or destroy him?” And I knew exactly what He meant. The mess that would have made in my son’s bed would have broken him. I didn’t want to do that.
The point of all of this is that God often disciplines us in order to steer us in positive directions. He doesn’t shield us from adversity or the consequences of our actions, even if we desperately wish He would. He’s a good father. He wants us to be happy, but he also wants us to mature. To think about others. To think about how our actions shape our lives and the lives of those around us. He does this because He loves us. He loves us enough to let us be uncomfortable sometimes, and enough to let us face the life we are creating in hopes that we will make a change. He uses this discipline to teach us self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. A fruit, you see, grows from the seed that is planted. So the Spirit, planted in us is capable of bearing this fruit, but we have to allow God to water and prune it. Both of those things can be momentarily uncomfortable for a seed.
But know this: God does not want to destroy us by His discipline. He wants to teach us. And when we ask for forgiveness for our moments of rashness, His response is immediate forgiveness. He loves us. He doesn’t want to burden us. He simply wants to train us to be wise, not foolish. Discipline is a beautiful thing. After three months of faithfully disciplining my son, I am beginning to see a wiser young man in the place of that foolish child.