Friday, August 29, 2014

The Rod

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him. - Proverbs 13:24
Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. - Proverbs 22:15
Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death. - Proverbs 23:13
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother. - Proverbs 29:15
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23:4

As I understand it, a rod is considered an instrument of authority. It was used by shepherds for counting, guiding, rescuing and protecting sheep. It's also seen as a figure of speech for discipline of any kind.

What is the hebrew word for rod? Finding that might help me interpret these verses. Is the rod in Psalm 23 the same rod that's found in Proverbs? Since I don't know the answer to this question, I'll simply work with what I know for now, relying on Grace, and hope for the best.

A common interpretation of these verses is that the rod is about spanking. But just because an interpretation is common doesn't necessarily mean it's the optimum one and it's fine to explore other avenues. I have seen unruly young children who received few to no spankings grow to become teenagers with Christ-like character who, for the most part, make beneficial choices. Conversely, I've met plenty of people spanked as children who've turned out to be disrespectful and self-righteous jerks in adulthood. And vice versa.

Are children affected most deeply by who we are as people and the examples we set rather than how we discipline them? I'm not saying we ought not to discipline, but only bouncing thoughts around. Do we as parents really have so much control, or are we just deceiving ourselves? Parents can train their child in the way they think is greatest, but that child still makes his or her own choices. Isn't it best simply to trust our families are cared for by God and respond accordingly?

If I want to raise a child to have Christ-like character, how exactly do I go about that? It seems to me there's some teaching or explanation that needs to happen, and I would think teaching is most effective if it flows from a place of trusting in Love. I suspect teaching is a type of rod, then, that may or may not need to be accompanied by physical discipline depending on the personality of each unique child and what a specific situation calls for and so on.

And a rod is for fishing. So there's that.

All this to say the reality is that no matter what method of discipline you use, you're failing at this parenting thing. You're failing because you cannot possibly be perfect at it, just like you can't be perfect at anything else.

So may it be that when the "We're-better-parents-than-them" attitude rears its ugly monkey head, the current of Grace sweeps it away and carries us deeper into a life of love and mercy.

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