Discipline Applied

Ballet Class by Sallie Stone--Public Domain Pictures

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)

I have been thinking about a discussion I had with my husband many years ago on the subject of discipline; not just that internal driving force which 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 about ballet and the discipline inherent in the pursuit of excellence in that field. As a result of that conversation, he had a revelation about God’s discipline in our own lives.

You see, in a typical ballet class, you can tell what the teacher thinks of 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 his or her respect for you as a dancer. My daughter, Hannah, greatly desires correction in her dance classes for this reason. She considers a ballet class without any corrections a disappointment.

Another example of discipline, externally applied, is the boot camp which is every new recruit’s entrance into military service. No one’s under any illusion that boot camp is going to be a relaxing vacation. The purpose of boot camp is to apply external discipline in hopes of instilling internal discipline into an otherwise undisciplined lot. This is liberally applied by someone who does a lot of yelling and screaming while making you do things you would rather not be doing. After six weeks of intense physical, emotional, and psychological training, you are considered ready for basic military life.

I vividly recall seeing my husband after his six weeks of boot camp in San Diego, California, the first step to entering the U.S. Navy Submarine Service. He appeared a markedly different man than the one I knew. This was more than just the obvious haircut and naval uniform. He carried himself differently and had an “air” about him. The experience changed him. During the couple of days we were allowed to spend together between boot camp and the first of eighteen months worth of specialized schools he was about to attend, he recounted his experiences of the previous six weeks–none of which sounded any fun. He told me of his Chief Petty Officer who kept screaming, “PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL, RECRUIT!!” Each and every recruit knew that paying attention to detail might one day save their lives.

Anyone who is serious about serving the Lord and accomplishing God’s call on their life, has gone through their own spiritual “boot camp” experience. We don’t call it that, of course. For some of us this 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 commands us to “pay attention to detail, recruit”–for the exact same reason.

What if we viewed God’s chastisement like my daughter approaches correction in her ballet classes? What if we saw God’s discipline as something to be embraced instead of avoided?

The maturing of our faith is a life-long, never-ending process. We can’t allow ourselves to become spiritually complacent or self-satisfied. God knows what is buried in the deepest recesses of our hearts. He knows those ugly sins we expertly hide from others.  Thankfully, God loves us too much to let us stay where we are.

As for me, I have determined to welcome God’s “size nine management” to my “seat of learning.” Just as Hannah is convinced her teacher’s respect is demonstrated by each correction given in ballet class, I am convinced “the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

While I may not enjoy the process of discipline applied, I can rest assured it is essential for my continued spiritual growth. I am grateful God did not leave me as I was ten years ago. Ten years from now, I will look back at who I am today with the same gratitude.

This is the process of sanctification:

Day in and day out,

The discipline of the Lord applied,

Until we begin to look more like Him.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan E. Johnson
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