He was 2 1/2 and I spanked him. I spanked him over and over and over again, because I thought I was doing the right thing, the godly thing. I needed him to obey, there was no other option.
I was tired and overwhelmed, and I just wanted compliance. I wanted him to honor me by obeying me; I wanted be biblical in the training of my child. I wanted to raise an obedient child so that one day he would be great.
But my son, with the bright blue eyes, he was sad. Very, very sad.
He thought he was bad; not the bad in the understanding that we are all born with a sinful bent, but the bad as in an “I’m not lovable” bad. And he wasn’t just sad, he was angry. He was angry because he didn’t think he could change. He was angry that he couldn’t help his immaturity. He was angry that we just kept trying to spank the immaturity out of him.
And when he looked at me with wet eyes and said, “God doesn’t love me” I broke.
Spanking, first-time obedience, over and over and over and over, and honor, and love, and sadness and anger, and we both just broke.
This way of love was not working.
My husband and I learned a new way, slowly and fumbling, we learned how to love our son and nurture his soul in compassionate ways. We began listening to him more, rubbing his arms, looking in his eyes, relating with him (we sin too), and finding ways to guide his heart towards good…towards the kindess and love of God.
I learned the art of stepping down from my rank as the authority and putting myself in his shoes. Remembering the mind of a child, the immaturity, the limited understanding, the just trying to figure out my world curiosity. And when I do this, when I remember and allow myself to see through his eyes, I am following in the way of Jesus.
Jesus, who humbled himself by stepping down from his rank to live as us, among us. He wore flesh and saw through human eyes, and He had compassion on the people. He had compassion on me.
And He has been ever so gentle with me, as I’m just figuring out my world; as I’m figuring out how to fit perfect into fallen. He is in me, perfection, and His Spirit is intertwined with mine, and I’m just working it all out, this life with Him. He is maturing me slowly, gently, with His kindness and compassion.
His gentleness is making me great.
And it is the gentleness that I am learning to show my son, to raise my babies, that I believe will make them great.
“…your gentleness makes me great.” Psalm 18:35
Need help navigating the waters of discipline? I highly recommend Heartfelt Discipline: Following God’s Path of Life to the Heart of Your Child