“As it seemed best.”
These four words have been a continual source of healing and comfort to me in my earthly parenting; however, I am even more comforted by the fact that they have no place in God’s heavenly parenting of His children.
In his letter of warnings to the Jewish Christians, the author of Hebrews addresses the concept of biblical discipline.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:7-11.
As Seems: Parenting from Our Limited Perspective
Discipline is a loaded and misunderstood word, especially in our culture. However, the biblical term translated discipline holds a greater range of meaning than mere correction or punishment. The Greek paideia means instruction that trains someone to reach maturity and full development. While it includes correction, biblical training goes far beyond meting out consequences. It is a multi-faceted process that addresses and presses the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional lives of our developing children.
As it it were not weighty enough, this biblical definition takes the conversation around the discipline and training of our children to a whole new level. Instead of staying in the common wrestling mats of “What kind of consequences do I give my children?” and “For what actions will they receive consequences?,” it creates many more mats upon which to wrestle.
- What is our developmental plan for our child’s spiritual well-being?
- In which school environment will each of our children be most stretched?
- Will this risk that we are encouraging our child to take (trying out for a sports team, taking a challenging class, going away for a church trip. etc…) be a healthy stretch or something that snaps his/her spirit?
- Are we over-correcting our child to the point of constant critique?
- When do we address the various patterns we see in their lives? Do we pray and let the Lord work in His time? Do we bring them up? If so, when and how? In what order?
Even when we think we have arrived at an answer for this child in this season, there will be another season for this child (not to mention, other very different children, for many families). So many potential pieces. How will they ever become a cohesive whole?
These and countless other questions should cause parents to drop to their knees in prayers for discernment and wisdom.
Parents are called by God to lovingly, intentionally, prayerful discipline their child(ren). He knows that we are limited in our understanding of our children’s hearts and hard-wiring. He knows that are bound by time, unable to see the future into which we and they are walking. He knows that we have our own pasts, foibles and blindspots that affect our parental vision.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are but dust. Psalm 103:13-14.
As Is: Parenting from His Perspective
While we, through prayer and discernment and many teary or heated conversations, parent as seems best, God works providentially as is best. There is no seeming best to Him.
The One who ordered the stars and hummed hummingbirds into existence has hard-wired each of our children. His Spirit goes where law and even loving parental interrogations cannot (1 Corinthians 2:10). He stands outside of time and sees the full frame of the future that is coming for each of them (Psalm 139). He will not break a dimly burning wick, and a bruised reed he will not break (Isaiah 42:3). Every incident of their lives He will work with intention to their good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
Oh, what a net this reality provides to the weary, wondering parent. Rather than leaving us paralyzed by a sea of choices and potential consequences, these promises free us to move forward in fear of God and trust in Him, rather than our own limited perspective.