By Freeman Martin
Have you been to one of those big box stores lately? This time of the year exasperated parents can be found loading up a couple of carts with clothes, school supplies, electronic gadgets, and other so-called back to school “must-haves?” I go there sometimes just to watch. Now, you might say that could be classified as cruel and unusual punishment, but it helps my memory.
For instance, the other day I saw a Mother who was obviously at the end of her rope. With three ‘little darlings’ that appeared to be of grammar school age bombarding her with ‘I need this and this and this,’ and ‘Mom, I just have to have this one!’ and ‘Mom, all my friends have one of these,’ and ‘Mom, if you don’t buy me one of these, I just won’t go back to school.’ And Mom’s reply was, ‘Honey, I’ve told you three times and I’m not going to tell you again.’ I didn’t even hear her finish the sentence. Already, my memory switch had kicked into reverse and was racing backwards in time faster than a two-horse wagon out of control on Snow Creek Hill. Just how many times does she have to say no?
What ever happened to discipline? And manners! And obeying parents? My buddy, Morgan Pritchard, and I were discussing things like this in the hall before Sunday School the other day. Morgan said he still cringes when he sees someone wearing a hat in the house! He said he’d like to run up to them and shout, “didn’t your Momma teach you not to wear a hat in the house?” Well, sadly Morgan, ol’ buddy, I’m afraid that one is way down the list when it comes to matters of discipline. It’s my thinking that we’ve lost the way to the woodshed!
I remember one time back home at Route 4 when Daddy had us boys all in a huddle at the ‘shed.’ For some unknown reason, the door to the smokehouse had been left open the night before. Whoever was the last one out had not taken the time to secure the latch, and the guilty party chose to remain anonymous. Well, Daddy just issued a blanket statement. “If you don’t admit who did it, I’ll just whip every one of you and then I’ll know I’ve got the right one.” Well, brother, that’s all it took. George, Ollie, Wade, Eddie, and Wendell, and anyone else close by started singing like the Return Baptist Church choir on Sunday morning! I never had a chance. And as Daddy pulled off his belt, and he could whip that thing off in a flash, he said the magic words, “Son, this is going to hurt me more than it is you.”
My little 12-year-old brain sprang into motion! And here’s what it shoved out of my mouth, “Well, if that’s so, why don’t we just trade places and I won’t hurt you!” There was an extra chair at the supper table for about a month after that cause you-know-who was eating from the standing position!
But, you know, the things that kids get away with these days never ceases to amaze me! When parents speak to their children, many times I hear responses like ‘Huh?’ or ‘What?’ And don’t get me started on this one that shows complete disrespect – ‘Whatever!’
Back home at Route 4, whenever Daddy said, “Son, close that door, were you raised in a barn,’’ there were always at least two boys, sometimes three, jumping towards the open door! I still think it’s respectful of children to use words like yes, sir, and no, sir, and yes, mam, and no, mam. And how about some please, and may I, and thank you? And I don’t think it matters how old children are – eight or sixty-eight.
The Apostle Paul is one of my favorite people in the Bible. Maybe it’s because he was headed down the wrong road before he got knocked off his donkey by a blinding light! (Paul wrote a bunch of books in the Bible and even he had to spend some time at the woodshed!). Anyway, in his book of Ephesians, Paul tells children to obey your parents in the Lord ‘cause it’s the right thing to do. And also because it’s a commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy a long life” (Eph. 6:1-3).
But whippings (discipline) are painful, right? And I think most parents will agree right here – the pain is shared by both parties in the whippings. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say ‘don’t you just love a good whipping!’ No, they’re painful. But there are a couple of woodshed lessons here for mature Christians. First, God disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6). And it’s for our own good (Hebrews 12:10-11), producing ‘a harvest of righteousness and peace.’
So, if you’ve been spending a lot of time lately at God’s Woodshed waitin’ for the Harvest , just remember the words of my sweet Mother as she applied the hickory switch that we deserved to our backside, “you’re going to appreciate this when you grow up.”
Mother, are we grown up yet?