A stampede thunders above. Squawking penetrates the air as the fittest survives. If only I was actually in Africa! Instead, I’m settled in my office on a beautiful Saturday morning, visions of peace with the Lord and my morning cup of coffee chased like prey from my reality. The stampede? My children. The squawking? Cries for help as one or the other exerts their dominion over the upstairs bedrooms! The shuffle is on. Big brother moved out several weeks ago, and the girls are surveying their territory. With the wood floors complete and mom and dad back in their own abode, they can now migrate. The youngest, bloodthirsty for her own room, woke with a single mission: get the oldest sister to make her move down the hall, boot out her roommate, and victory! She can stake her claim to her very own room for the first time in her 10-year life. It’s a big day in the Wallace wilderness!
After tuning out enough chaos to complete my morning’s work on Hebrews 11, I open my journal and begin emptying me onto the page in order to be filled by Him and His will according to His pleasure for my day. More skirmishes. Higher pitched squeals. Angry words. Tattling. Are you kidding me? The words pour onto the page: “Lord, please give them your grace and turn their hearts genuinely to You. I don’t know what to do. I know only You can change their hearts. What do I do as their mom? What is it You need me to do in their training and discipline?” He answers. My lack is discipline. As my children have grown, and the rod, in my eyes, has become inappropriate, my discipline has slacked. We revoke privileges and invoke extra chores, but consistently? No. I’ve allowed their hearts to harden in rebellion. The words continue to fill the page. Who was it whose sons died because he failed to discipline? I search the word. It’s Eli, God’s priest.
Eli’s sons “were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (I Sam. 2:12). When Eli “heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (1 Sam. 2:22), he confronts them, but he does not discipline them. So a man of God comes to Eli and says, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house? Did I not choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priest, to offer upon My alter, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? Why do you kick at My sacrifice and My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honor your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?’” (I Sam. 2:27-29; emphasis mine). The consequence was severe: “But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your arm and the arm of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. And you will see an enemy in My dwelling place, despite all the good which God does for Israel. And there shall not be an old man in your house forever. But any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendents of your house shall die in the flower of their age. Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall both die, both of them’” (I Sam. 2:30-34; emphasis mine).
More honesty: “Lord, I don’t want to put my children in danger because I don’t want to discipline. Why don’t I? Because I don’t want to deal with the reactions. I don’t want to face the reality of my own and their depravity. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it Lord? When I discipline, it reveals the condition of all our hearts.” Then it got painful: “It’s not out of love for them that I fail to discipline. It’s out of love for self.” Ouch!
It IS only by His grace that our hearts will change. It IS only by His power that we will do what He desires. Just like Eli, we have been chosen to offer on His altar ourselves as a living sacrifice. How many ways that sacrifice is required! Which more important, though, than for the life and salvation of our children.
And I close with this prayer. If you struggle with consistent discipline, too, join me. If not, pray for those of us who do!
“Lord, give me Your grace to deny self, take up my cross, and follow You. By Your merciful kindness, move on my heart to love You in behavior, not just intentions. Always. Even when it’s hard. Even when it means seeing the truth about how fallen I am and how desperate we all need a Savior every moment of every day. Give me strength to discipline. Give me wisdom and knowledge to know when and how. By Your Holy Spirit, Lord, please give me the power to do it consistently for Your glory and for their good.”
The rumbles, shrieks, and scuffles continue. My youngest hollers from the stairs. She needs help, and her sisters aren’t coming to her aid. I’m tied up and can’t get to her right away. She struggles to carry something heavy down the stairs, crying out as she places herself in a precarious situation. “Elly, put that down and wait for someone to help you. Don’t just keep going and put yourself in danger!” I holler from where I am. Quietly, in my spirit, I hear: “Shauna, put down what you honor more than Me. Don’t just keep going and put your children in danger.”
I hear You, Lord. Thank you. Make me wholly Yours, today, for the sake of my children.
Grace to you.