My father was a pastor, and when I was five years old he was leading a church in a small Indiana town. The place had one stoplight, which was eventually removed because it was unnecessary. That’s small.
My maternal grandmother lived with us, caring for my younger brother and me so my mother could teach fourth grade. The one public school building for the entire surrounding area housed first through twelfth graders, and I vividly recall being impressed by the “big kids” on the grounds the few times I visited.
This district not only had no kindergarten, but each fall children were forbidden from entering those hallowed halls for first grade unless they’d be six by a set date in September. My birthday was in early November, and I’d be six then. Wasn’t that close enough? I could already read, and I wanted to go to school more than anything in the world. My mother knew that fact well, probably because I mentioned it a few hundred times.
I have no idea how she pulled strings to get me in, although the words principal and superintendent come to mind. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn Secretary of Education had played a part. My mother could be, uh, persuasive. But I think she said I got in because the first-grade class “had room.” Mmm. (I’ll tell you sometime about when she got my unsuitable college freshman dorm assignment changed in fifteen minutes flat. It was classic.)
All was well until Mrs. Burton told my mother she couldn’t persuade me to stop talking to my neighboring classmates while I was supposed to be listening. I don’t mean she casually mentioned this infraction in passing. No, she left our classroom mid-day, marched to my mother’s classroom down the hall, and ratted on me. I can imagine she said, “Joyce, I’ve warned her and warned her, but your little darling just doesn’t seem to be able to shut up.” I can also see my mom in her teacher-ly outfit, hand on the doorknob, clearly determined to help me along in the education to which I had so earnestly committed myself.
Now, this was a time when teachers could and did swat kids on their derrieres when they misbehaved without a soul batting an eye. In this case, however, Mrs. Burton decided to give my mother the honor. I don’t remember the swat after I obediently met said parent in the hall for her encouragement as much as I remember how I thought this development wholly unfair. I hadn’t wanted to go to school only to be disciplined, especially by my own mother.
I’m happy to say that, although my introverted self can no longer compute being unable to keep my mouth shut, I did learn how to obey those legitimately in authority who truly know what’s best for me. These women God placed in my life cared enough to make sure I did.
Did you ever think, I didn’t turn my life over to God so he could discipline me. He’s supposed to love me. But as we grow in God’s Word, we learn the Lord disciplines us because he loves us. The biblical author in Hebrews tells us,
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness” (vv. 7–10 NIV).
He finishes in verse 11 with, “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” (NIV).
I don’t always recognize when the Lord is disciplining me. Often when I face a trial or even slight problem of some kind, I think this is life rather than God might be trying to teach me. Perhaps I need to better absorb these words from Isaiah 48:17 (NIV):
This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.”
When life isn’t going as I wish, I want to remember this: God is always at work, and regardless of what he does or allows, he’s most concerned about what’s best for me because he loves me.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © J.J. Thompson, used with permission