He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.
Every summer, my wife and kids leave me for two-to-three weeks to visit all of her relatives in Texas while I stay home and work. For the first day or two that they're gone, I enjoy my freedom from some of my responsibilities. After that, though, I tend to go a little crazy. I find myself wandering around the house, or doing "improvement" projects I have no business tackling. Making up song lyrics. Or having conversations with inanimate objects.
A couple years ago, in the middle of their trip, I was trimming the bushes beneath our front windows. The three on the right side of the stoop grow more uniformly than the three on the left. On the left, the one closest to the stairs is healthiest, while the other two, thanks to heavier afternoon shade, don't do as well. Oh, it's hard to tell, because I keep them pruned so that they "grow together" in the middle and stay squared off on the tops and corners. But obviously, the two weaker bushes suffer the pruning less frequently, because I let them grow out to fill in the gaps.
As I was working, their healthier sibling, I imagined, began to speak to me. Or to whine is more like it...
Hey! What gives?
Nothing, my good man. Just time for your monthly trimming.
But why? I'm not doing anything wrong. Just sitting here minding my own business. Doing good, doing what I'm supposed to do. And here you come...
Well, just sit still, please. Trust me, I have a purpose here.
Really? Well forgive me for asking, but why doesn't that purpose seem to apply to my lazy, stunted brethren here? All this time and barely a scratch. Maybe a nip, a cut. Nothing lost, no pain.
You're not happy with how you look? Where you're situated?
I'm fine. But that's just it. I don't deserve this cutting and trimming.
You think you planted yourself in this primo spot?
Never really thought about it. I just want to know why you're taking so much away from me and nothing from them.
I told you I have a purpose. You can't see what I can see. In fact, you can't see much at all. You're completely rooted in place. But I've seen all around you and through you, and have since you were planted.
But it hurts. I don't like losing things.
Never having them in the first place, and never really growing, that's not much good either. I have to give extra care and attention to those others. I can only hope it brings them up to the same level of maturity as you...
I finished trimming up the hedges, and went my way, unsure I had gotten through. But when I stood back, I beheld something beautiful. I could only hope those under my care understood, had not despised their discipline, and opted to forsake impractical, joyless comparison.
Intersecting Faith & Life: The next time you feel like others aren't being as challenged as you are, or like the Lord is picking on you unfairly, consider that you can't see all the perspectives or purposes of the Lord, not in your life and especially not in the lives of others. The Lord loves you enough to discipline you, and he knows you're healthy and with enough green growth to handle His pruning.