Recently, my son (age 2) looked up at his big sister (age 5) sitting on the bathroom counter next to the sink, raised his little arms and said confidently, “Jump my arms! My catch wu!” [Let the reader be aware that my son says “wu” instead of “you.”] When my daughter laughed and told her little brother that she was too big, he insisted confidently, “Wu not too big. My can catch wu!”
When God said that children were a blessing, he wasn’t kidding (Psalm 127:3). I’ve got blessings doing cartwheels in my living room and blessings smeared on my kitchen nook windows. The signs of this shocking blessedness is all over the place. My wife and I spend our evenings mopping up the remnants of this blessing, regrouping, catching our breath, getting ready for another day of drinking this blessing from the fire hose of five insanely cute, creative, and (let’s admit it) slightly crazy people under the age of ten.
Part of the Blessing
But not only are we juggling diapers and naps and studies and bath times and stomach bugs, it turns out that these little people are sinners in need of grace. So in a healthy Christian home, we spend a goodish bit of time correcting, disciplining, training, and spanking. The path to the proverbial woodshed is well worn, shall we say. The thing that is often hard to remember when the two-year-old is going red-faced and screaming, when everybody’s getting their feelings hurt and fussing — the thing that is really hard to remember is that this is part of the blessing too.
It’s easy to think that blessing is all butterflies and sunsets. Children are blessings when they keep their outfits clean, obey cheerfully, and say cute things. But blessing isn’t a simple, paint-by-numbers kit. Without challenges, life would leave all of us (our kids included) a bunch of stunted, simplistic fools. So God in his great love sends us problems, trials, afflictions, and a pack of wild monkeys affectionately known as our children.
So, how is your heart? Do you resent the fact that this is the fourth trip to the woodshed this morning? (And you were planning to get your dishes done!) Were you hoping for a quiet evening after a long day of work but the kids won’t be nice to each other? How will you receive God’s interruption of your plans?
God is sovereign, and he has given you children that fuss and quarrel. If your heart is already bent out of shape, and the next kid that walks by is going to be a sinner in the hands of an angry god, then you’re well on your way to forfeiting the blessing God is trying to give you.
His Scheme to Bless
The first task in receiving the blessing of disciplining little ones is seeing what God is up to. He’s scheming to bless you. He’s conspiring to bless your socks off.
Do you see it? When God said children were a blessing, he knew they were conceived in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). He knew they would write on your walls with a permanent marker.
When that old dragon of sin rears up in the hearts of your children, do you think something has gone terribly wrong? Remember, God sends his favorite sons into battle with the dragon. He wants you to fight and get the victory. He wants you to get the blessing, renewed fellowship, the grace of forgiveness.
Much Too Big
Finally, for discipline of children to be a blessing, the act itself must be full of Jesus and his gospel of grace. Jesus is the center, the fountainhead of every spiritual blessing. And when the little guy shoves his mom and declares his independence from the empire, something inside you should smile because not only is his high-handed rebellion terribly cute but now you get to preach the gospel to him. If you laugh it off, if you refuse to intervene, if you refuse to discipline, you are refusing an evangelistic opportunity. You are refusing a chance to proclaim the grace of Jesus to your family.
A spanking is not primarily punishment. It’s discipline. We are discouraging one way of life and aiming for an audience with our children. It hurts in this small, temporary way because we do not want them to go down the path of pain that goes on and on. This is why it is love. Come with us, we say, come with us and follow Jesus. He stood in our place and took the death that we deserve. His blood makes us all clean. He destroyed the great dragon so we could be free. Let’s be forgiven. Let’s walk in the light. It’s not really about the tantrum. It’s certainly not about your peace and quiet. It’s about a cross, an empty tomb, and overwhelming grace.
In this way, we see that the blessing of God is actually much too big for us to handle, much too big for us to catch. But it is still a blessing from top to bottom, a blessing in the tears, a blessing in the laughter.
We get married, we pray for children, for a family, and God is sitting up on the counter and we’ve asked him to jump into our arms. We can handle this, we think. We want this blessing. And God smiles and laughs and jumps.