Oh, How I Lub Jesus, Because He First Lubbed Me

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the next installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” articles about house painting and gardening and, lately, about bugs. Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Philodendron bipinnatifidum. I can’t pronounce it either, but I have a host of them throughout my yard. They’re dark green, shrub-like plants with huge leaves that can grow more than 36” long and almost that wide. They’re perfect for my Plant Hardiness Zone (9B) and give a quasi-tropical feel to the grounds of the Lizard Lounge.

I planted all of them myself. At the time they were small enough to fit in the trunk of my car—now, though, they’re as big as my car. It’s fun to plant something like these philodendron and watch them grow to maturity—kind of like raising children, except philodendrons are a lot quieter and smell better.

One day, in a fit of whimsy (or insanity) I gave them all names—Phil (of course), Phillip, Philemon, Philicia, Phillo (he was Greek), Philm (he was into the arts), Phillerup (a blue collar type), Philbert (he was nuts), and Philanderer. (I had to replant him because he couldn’t keep his leaves off Philicia.)

I love my big ol’ philodendron plants. Turns out, though, I’m not the only one.

And now for the rest of the story…

discipl(in)e 2

The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:12)

As I’ve mentioned here on “clay” before, every verse that introduces one of my posts is a verse I’ve memorized. For today’s verse, however, I inadvertently chose pretty much the same verse twice (and a year or so later am just now discovering it – leave me alone…). The first time I wrote on “The Lord disciplines those He loves” it was based on Hebrews 12:6 in my post discipl(in)e. Interestingly, the author of Hebrews was actually quoting today’s verse from Proverbs.

As I’ve pointed out, I know the Lord had a hand when I was choosing these verses to memorize, and He also knew I was going to be writing about them, so obviously this particular one from Proverbs 3:12 bears repeating:

The Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

It helps me better understand what Solomon was saying when I insert a couple of words – maybe it will you, too:

The Lord disciplines those he loves, [just] as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in.

Better. (I mean Solomon was wise and all, but…)

In the post linked above, I wrote about how God sometimes uses punishment to discipline me; however, I’ve also experienced God’s discipline through another meaning of that word from the dictionary:

“A regimen that improves a skill; training.”

I like that definition much better than the “punishment” one. It also makes me think of my dad when I was growing up.

Even though he and I were different in a lot of ways, we both shared a love of music. He had a naturally great singing voice and would often sing to himself while he worked around the house or to us when we were little. Mostly he sang hymns, but occasionally a little Hank Williams would sneak its way in there.

He loved the fact that I played the piano, and was never hesitant to pay for my lessons and music books. Watching him work long hours and sacrifice to make my life easier than his made me learn what it took to be disciplined at something. In a way, he disciplined me to improve my skill at the piano by setting an example of hard work and dedication.

Now that I’ve become a Christian, I’m learning that building a relationship with God and “continuing to work out [my] salvation” (Philippians 2:12) also requires a lot of discipline.

Stepping out in faith and dependence on Him doesn’t come easy for me. It takes practice, just like playing the piano – but practice spent through prayer and Bible study and not by sitting on the piano bench. That’s the only way I can know God better and, as a result, learn to trust Him without reservation.

Learning to “go and tell” also takes practice. The way He’s chosen for me to share my testimony of Him and what he’s done for me is through writing for this blog – a sort of electronic version of the great commission. Learning to communicate a message of hope and salvation requires that I do it regularly while being sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Before I go any further, though, let me dispel any impression I might be giving that I’ve got being disciplined spiritually down pat…

As much as I love experiencing the presence of the Lord through prayer, sometimes I find myself dozing off because I stayed up late the night before “piddlin’ around,” as daddy would say, on Facebook. Other times, I realize it’s been a while since I’ve written something for “clay”, spending my time working crossword puzzles rather than taking time to prepare, research, and write a post.

It’s important to stay in touch with family and friends but how many pictures of grumpy cats do I need to see? And games are good for my aging brain and all, but how often do I need to know that the answer to 24 across, “British heiress, ____ Khan” is “Jemima”?

Answers: none and never. (Unless Ms. Khan is looking to funnel off some of her inheritance to an American lad who’s handy in the kitchen…)

Both would fall under the category of diversion or distraction – not discipline.

It takes discipline:

  • To offer God my best and be “all in” before Him in prayer.
  • To put the puzzle away and start researching the scriptures and writing a post in order to “give the reason for the hope that [I] have” (1 Peter 3:15).

But both of those areas of discipline are underscored by an even more important form of spiritual discipline: waiting on the Lord. You see, that’s where He helps me learn discipline the most: He makes me wait for him.

In Psalm 37:7, David wrote:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

Easy for David to say. (For me, though, I’m afraid I may doze off again…)

  • Sometimes when I pray I have to let go of my agenda and wait for God to show me His.
  • Sometimes when I write a post, I have to start over – occasionally from scratch – because I didn’t wait on Him to tell the story He wants me to tell.
  • Always I have to “wait patiently for him” to be sure I’m taking the next steps He wants me to take.

God waited patiently for me most of my life. Now that I can look back and see how gracious and merciful He was, how can I not wait patiently for Him? He’s definitely worthy of my every moment.

In reality, though, all of these spiritual disciplines have a higher purpose: they draw me to Him. Waiting for Him, listening to Him, studying His word, and trusting Him are all disciplines I can achieve only by drawing closer to Him.

Without drawing closer to the Lord and seeking His will, His presence, and His guidance I would end up missing the most important thing He can give me –

Himself.

And without being disciplined spiritually and giving Him all that I have – heart, soul, mind, and strength – He wouldn’t have the thing He wants from me the most –

Me – all of me.

So I’m finally learning something my dad learned long ago: even though he was a disciplined craftsman, provider, and teacher, his most rewarding area of discipline was as a follower of Jesus.

I’m a lot of years behind him in that last one, but I hope to catch up enough to at least taste his dust…

discipl(in)e

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son. Heb. 12: 5-6

Back in my pre-salvation days when I wasn’t very discerning in my TV viewing, I was a fan of the sitcom Friends. In one episode, Chandler’s new boss, a manly-man type, liked to smack his male employees on the behind when they did a good job, à la football coach. According to Chandler, a whiny cubicle worker kind of guy, his boss hit too hard and it hurt, so he asked him to stop.

However, it wasn’t long before Chandler realized he was missing out on the attention and recognition the other guys were getting from the boss. So, in typical 30-minutes-from-problem-to-solution sitcom fashion, he asked his boss to include him once again in the daily “whack-a-worker” ritual and they all lived bruised but happily ever after in cubicle land.

I guess you could say that Chandler didn’t understand the significance of his boss’s smacks – as uncomfortable as they were, they were a sign of his approval and affirmation.

While that’s a pretty loose analogy for this post, hopefully you get my point. The “smacks” being described in the verses above are about God disciplining us and not about male bonding rituals; but, just as with Chandler’s boss, those acts of punishment have a greater significance that is easy to miss when it seems God is being a little too hard.

I can’t think of anyone who enjoys being disciplined. I certainly don’t – I never did. I was a pretty good kid and never got many spankings when I was young, but I got my share of being sat down and talked to. To tell you the truth, though, I would have preferred a whipping to the look of disappointment on my dad’s face or the tears in my mother’s eyes when we had those discussions about how I had let them down. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the fact that we wouldn’t have been having that conversation if they hadn’t loved me so much and wanted so much more for me than I was bound to end up with unless I learned to meet their expectations.

I imagine that, if I could see God’s face when He has to discipline me, there would be disappointment on it as well – especially when I willfully decide to go my own way, in effect thumbing my nose at Him and his gracious gift of salvation at the expense of the precious, pure, and perfect blood of Jesus. Unlike with my parents, though, I now understand that God’s discipline is due to His love for me. It also reminds me that, while I’ll never be able to live up to the example set by His only begotten son, as His adopted son He certainly wants me to. Begotten or adopted, His expectations are the same.

Besides, as the latter half of I John 5:3 says, “…His commands are not burdensome.” It may take every bit of resolve in me and every ounce of faith I can muster to trust that God will provide the resources for me to do what He expects me to do, but what He asks won’t be unreasonable and will certainly be within my ability.

And the upside? In addition to affirming His love for me, any discipline that’s meted out just reminds me that I’m still a member of His family.

And while God’s punishment can hurt a lot more than a whack on the behind, it serves as a sign of His love and His wanting so much more for me than I’m bound to end up with unless I learn to meet His expectations…

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the love and acceptance you show me everyday, whether by providing comfort and blessings or by pulling me up short when I don’t meet your expectations – which is actually another type of blessing in itself, albeit a blessing that is hard won. Please continue to give me the ability to see your discipline for what it is: the act of an all-loving Father for His adopted son.”

Totally worth any bruising…