Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV)
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. – Revelation 3:19-20 (NIV)
Most of us have experienced that humbling moment when we realize how right our parents were about something. It didn’t really matter what they were right about, just that they were right. We understood in that moment that their boundaries and rules were born from love and wisdom rather than a deep desire to ruin our lives. At that moment we become a step closer to understanding God’s love for us.
There is a passage from the well-known book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe that has always been a favorite of mine. It is an exchange between Lucy and the Beavers regarding the character of Aslan.
“…if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” i
It is a repeated theme in the Narnia stories that Aslan is not a tame lion. God is not a tame father. And I must not be a tame parent to my children. There will come a day when I will stand between my daughters and a bad decision or poor judgment on their part. When that day comes, I hope I have the courage to take the blows and dispense the discipline. I have plenty of experiences in my own life when God blocked the way and I am immensely grateful for His intervention, but I was not at the time. I was angry, frustrated and quite honestly, pitiful.
Tough love is not a convention of modern parenting gurus; it is the consistent example of God’s love for man from the time He kicked Adam and Eve out of their first home and will continue as long as mankind populates the earth. It is the place where compassion and discipline intersect to redeem a potential disaster. It is the voice of wisdom delivered with courage and conviction. It brings us from “While we were still sinners” to being “a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!”
I love my daughters, but moments will come where I will need tough love. I will need it so I can love them for who they are becoming as much as who they are. I will need it to say the right words even if they are hard words. I will need it when I am the only thing standing between them and a bad decision. So I will ask God to help me and pray that I will be the father they need me to be even if sometimes that means they don’t like me. I am beginning to think the real reason it is called tough love is because of how hard it is to extend rather than receive.
i Lewis, C. S., The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, page 80.