Occasionally I like to look at the deeper meaning of words. For example, I noticed that discipline and disciple begin in the same way. The wheels of my brain began turning. I discovered that the word discipline comes from the word disciple. This seemed interesting. It’s not the way I think of discipline.
What’s a Disciple?
When I imagine a disciple, people like James, John and Peter pop into my mind. With their successes and failures they strove to follow Christ whole heartedly. We become disciples of other people or thought processes whenever we put our whole heart into following that leader or way of thinking. I looked up the meaning of disciple and apparently the origin meaning is considered obsolete today. It meant to train or learn. I could see that. Today, we limit disciples to only those original 12 who followed Jesus. Now that seems short-sighted to me.
What is discipline?
Meanings for discipline run the gambit of people’s personal experiences. Often we imagine a punishment or consequence of some sort. For some, this consists of painful childhood memories. Yet, upon investigation, it also means to train or bring a state of order. Fascinating.
How my imagination puts them together?
I’m a highly visual person. I require images to make things connect in my brain. I’ve read within scripture that God is like a gardener. In John 15:2, it says, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
For those of us who attempt gardening at any time, pruning is an essential element in the growth of many differing plants, but on the surface, it makes no sense. I mean here we have a growing plant, solid leaf structure, occasionally fruit or flowers still growing. Then, in order to enable the plant to grow better, one must cut it properly to remove old growth. This helps to train the plant within the space you have provided for it.
Now occasionally I prune poorly. There are definite ways to prune various types of plants to ensure their continued success. Simply cutting off branches can actually kill that branch or even the whole plant. There’s a certain way to cut the plant seeing its growth potential and ensuring it’s future.
I see discipline in this cutting process. Those of us who discipline our children wisely with an eye on training them to become successful in the future need to carefully consider the child and how they respond to our actions. If we simply cut away at them and punish, we risk harming them and not building a strong disciple of Christ. In the same way, if we never even attempt to groom them and shape them, they will grow wild and unable to remain within the limits life places upon them.
Our job as parents is to train them up so that they can become solid disciples of Christ. He continues that training later into life. I have felt His pruning in my life recently and while it feels uncomfortable at the time, it enabled essential in my growth.
Fears of discipline
Unfortunately, we’ve become afraid to discipline our children for fear of cutting too hard. By not acting, we reveal a lack of faith in not only who they can become but also in the Lord who designed this process. In a simpler way, I experience this fear annually at rose pruning time. I love the simple beauty of roses but ensuring their long-term success and beauty requires pruning. Often I procrastinate on this job. “The stems are long and beautiful, maybe they don’t require trimming this year,” I tell myself. Then, as the year proceeds, I catch glimpses of other roses which have been tended and trained more properly. Mine look gangly and produce few flowers.
Our children long to produce beauty in their lives. We appreciate each moment and success. But we can accidentally stunt their growth and limit their potential by not placing limits upon them. As backwards as it may sound, the limits we give actually encourage healthier growth. Go figure.
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