During a recent conversation with my husband, we were discussing the subject of discipline; not just that internal driving force that allows us to get things done, but also the external pressure applied to correct behavior that needs correcting. My husband recounted a conversation he had with my daughter several years ago about ballet and the discipline that is inherent in the pursuit of excellence in that field. He stated that as a result of this conversation, he had real revelation on the subject of God’s hand of discipline in our own lives.
You see, in a typical ballet class, you know how much the teacher thinks of you (and your potential as a dancer) by how often you are corrected. The more a teacher tells you what you are doing wrong and how to fix it, the more you know the level of their respect for you as a dancer. Our daughter, Hannah, greatly desires correction in her dance classes for this reason. She considers a ballet class without correction to be one in which she did not adequately perform.
Another example of discipline, externally applied, is the boot camp experience which begins every new recruit’s entrance into military service. There is no one who is under any illusion that boot camp is going to be “fun romp” or relaxing vacation. The purpose of boot camp is to apply external discipline in the hopes of instilling internal discipline into an otherwise undisciplined lot. This is applied liberally by someone who generally does a lot of yelling and screaming while making you do things you would rather not be doing. After six weeks of this intense physical, emotional, and psychological training, you are considered more prepared for military life.
I vividly remember seeing my husband for the first time after his six weeks of boot camp in San Diego, California, his first stop upon entering the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. He was a markedly different man than the one I had seen prior to that experience. This was more than just the obvious haircut and naval uniform. He carried himself differently and had a different “air” about him. One of the many experiences he related was a chief petty officer who kept yelling, “PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL, RECRUIT!!” It was that attention to detail that could save your life if you found yourself in a precarious position.
Anyone who is serious about serving the Lord, and walking into God’s call on their life, has likely gone through their own spiritual ”boot camp” experience. We don’t call it that, of course. For some of us that training period is years, or even decades long, making for an extended painful learning experience. But, just as the chief petty officer yelled during my husband’s boot camp experience, God earnestly desires that we too, “pay attention to detail, recruit” for the same reason.
What if we approached God’s chastisement like my daughter approaches correction in her ballet classes? What if we viewed this journey to spiritual maturity as something essential to be embraced instead of the pain and discomfort as something to be avoided?
Many of our pastors don’t chastise or correct us any more. We come out of our Sunday services feeling good about ourselves, but we don’t change much. Every week those “sins that so easily best us” become more deeply entrenched. We struggle with the same issues; we are enslaved to the same sins with no real victory in sight. There must be a better way to live.
My husband and I are aware of how far God has brought us and how much farther we have yet to go. This process of change is life-long and never-ending. We can never allow ourselves to come to a place of spiritual complacency or self-satisfaction. God knows what is buried in the deepest recesses of our hearts that no one else can see. He knows those ugly sins that we hide so well from others, but cannot be hidden from Him. God loves us too much to let us stay where we are and desires growth in our walk with Him.
As for us, we have determined to welcome God’s “size nine management” to our “seat of learning.” Just as our daughter is convinced of her teachers’ interest in her during correction in ballet class, we know that “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
While we may not enjoy this process of discipline (as my husband did not enjoy his boot camp experience), we can rest assured that it is essential. I, for one, am grateful that God did not leave me where I was ten years ago. And ten years from now, I hope to look back at who I am today with that same realization.
This is the very process of sanctification: day in and day out, the chastening of the Lord until we begin to look more like Him. God’s boot camp is a glorious experience.
Copyright © 2012 by Susan E. Johnson
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