Summary: God uses discipline to help his children to grow.


Hebrews 12:5-13

John Tung, 5-15-05

I. Introduction

Dr. John Townsend, one of the two authors of the book, How People Grow, describes a particular woman in one of his chapters.

“A young woman named Kara came to my office to talk about her home life. ‘Here is my problem,’ she said. ‘I tend to be a flake. I have a hard time getting organized, I’m terrible with money, and I’m late for everything. It never bothered me until I got married and had small kids. Now it’s really bothering me.’

‘Any idea on how things got this way for you?’ I asked.

‘Well, my parents loved me as a child, but they did everything for me. I never learned how to handle schedules and money, or even how to keep my room clean. Now I’m married to this loving, supportive guy, and I really like my marriage and my life, but try as I might, I can’t keep it together. I have a to-do list for parenting, cleaning, and errands, and so much of it just doesn’t get done. The house is always a total mess, and the errands don’t get done. And it’s not like my kids are that demanding or the tasks are that unrealistic. I have friends in my situation who pull it off. I will get bored or get on the phone with a friend, and nothing gets done.’

‘So a flake is a person who has trouble being organized, disciplined and focused?’

‘Yes. And I really hate the disappointment I see on my husband’s face when he gets home after work. He’s not a controlling person or a perfectionist or anything. He helps out a lot. All he wants is a little order in our life. But I can hardly get any of my list done. I feel like I’m not ready for the grownup world.’

‘What have you done to try to deal with this?’

‘Well, I was tested for ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], and the results were negative. I pray a lot, and make resolutions and commitments to God. They help me for a while, but not for long.’

‘If you told your toddler to try really hard to make dinner, what would happen?

Kara looked confused, then said, ‘He would fail.’

‘Right. Why?’

‘Because he doesn’t have the ability.’

‘So how does he get the ability?’

‘I suppose he has to work on it over a long period of time.’ She paused. ‘Are you saying that’s what I have to do?’

‘In a way. I’m saying you don’t have the ability to be self-disciplined. It’s not inside you. So when self-discipline is found wanting, we need other-discipline from outside of us so that we can take it in and develop it.’

‘So what do I do?’

‘Well, at this point it doesn’t seem to me as if you have some unknown resistance to being organized, or are sabotaging yourself, so I would suggest you ask some friends, including your husband, to check in with you at certain times during the day to encourage you and to see how your to-do list is going. This will break the day up into manageable pieces and will also keep you aware that you’ll be answering to someone soon, not in a parental way, but in a friendly way. Try that for a while.’

‘If, however, you are still not able to pull off the tasks,’ I continued, ‘I would move to an arrangement in which you have to lose something if you don’t get the tasks done. Maybe you have to shine your friends’ shoes or drive to their house with an ice cream.’

‘That sounds like how I’m raising my kids.’

‘It is, because you are somewhat like your kids inside. The only difference is, you are initiating this approach rather than someone doing it to you.’”

Townsend concludes by saying:

“Kara went to work. One of the things I loved about her was that she had no problem submitting to her friends and being honest about her ‘flakiness.’ She cared more about growing up than looking good or self-righteous. And God always honors that attitude, as in the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee (Lk. 18:9-14). So I wasn’t surprised when she called me a while later and said things were much better. She had to do more shoe shining than she had expected, but she was seeing more of an ability to stay on task in her life” (249-51).

What is the point of this story?

It is to show that we need discipline in our lives. We are born without much boundaries or discipline. Babies are born to cry, to want others to take care of them, and they don’t much care how that affects others. Babies have no self-control. But as we grow older, one of the most important things that we need to learn and to have our parents and others teach us is to set up some sort of order and structure in our lives. Otherwise, like the woman described here, we grow older age-wise, but we still have infant-life characteristics in us.

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