In the world of parenting, I am a disciplinarian. I maintain stringent rules and my children follow. It’s not necessarily because I believe children should perform a particular way. It’s more because my tolerance level for unruly behavior is very low. Screaming, squealing, and whining are like fingernails on a chalkboard, so I nip those piercing sounds as soon as possible in my children’s formative years.
I have now graduated to the phase of teaching my children how to function in society as mature, responsible adults. Yes, even the ten-year-old is in training to maintain a household and contribute to society someday.
I am not only tough on my children, I am tough on myself. My standards for myself far exceed any standards I lay on my children. That is probably why I see God (at times) as a disciplinarian, Someone who shakes His head while I flounder around trying to “do life.” I realize this picture is inaccurate, yet I still drift toward this side of the spectrum periodically.
Recently one of my older boys was working on a paper for his first college course. Typically I would stay out of his school business, but I was worried about this particular assignment. I coached him to work ahead. I frequently prodded him about it and reminded him of the importance of taking the time to research, write, and re-write. He replied with normal teenage behavior. Head nods. Quick, “I know”s. Statements ensuring me he knew what he was doing. Gestures indicating I was being bossy and intrusive.
The day before the paper was due he started. I can’t relate to this type of procrastination. When I was in college the paper was finished at least two days ahead of time. I allowed for errors, possible re-writes, equipment issues (what if the typewriter—yes, typewriter—quit working while I was finishing it up?), etc. He asked me a few questions while working and I helped as much as I thought I should. When I trotted off to bed at 10:30 p.m., I felt prompted to state, “If you need me, you may wake me.”
Around 2:30 a.m. I felt a poke. Lest you think this is normal behavior, I will gloat in telling you I almost always enjoy eight straight hours of sleep. Yes, something else I have worked hard at achieving in our household and am proud to have accomplished. When I looked up, I saw my son’s face, white and wide-eyed. “Mom, I don’t know what else to do. My paper is only half the required length and I’ve run out of things to say.” I could tell by his demeanor he had hit a wall and was broken to the point of paralysis. I saw my baby boy in need.
I am a strong proponent of natural consequences. You know . . . you fail to do the work, you get the grade that reflects your efforts. However, I could tell this wasn’t a time for natural consequences—or even a lecture. Instead God impressed upon me that this was a time to extend grace. I got up and helped him finish the paper.
As I reflect upon this incident, I am humbled. God used my son to teach me, once more, about His grace. I realize He sees me as his baby girl in need—not of discipline or lecturing, but of grace. I’m not saying there aren’t times for natural consequences. What I am saying is there are many, many times that God sees fit to reach down and pick me up out of my muck and mire and extend grace to His child in need.