Discipline Through God’s Eyes
Dispelling the myth of chastisement as rejection or hate
My memories of my dad’s (Papito’s) spankings were traumatic and never punctuated by, “I’m doing this for your own good” or “When you’re older, you’ll appreciate this.” We were belted good and red and that was it.
My Heavenly Father does not discipline like this. He is perfect and whenever he disciplines or chasten us it is for our glorious grooming. Jesus told us, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefor and repent.” Rev 3:19. We never enjoy being corrected, but it is essential for us to learn submission regarding Father’s training of us
I know many brethren who have shared their horror stories of their spiritual beatings in different churches. Most came from broken families or had fathers who harsh, critical and abusive. As adults seeking belonging and restoration through church fellowship, many found themselves in the same state as when they were children. Fellow brethren would misunderstand them or their pastors were unsympathetic, unsupportive of their gifts or emotionally detached. Many find themselves even more emotionally traumatized and alienated. There is no such thing as a perfect church, but many of us in our brokenness seek to get our needs met..
My childhood was anything but ideal. When I graduated from high school, I was very incomplete and broken in many areas. After I accepted Christ as my savior in a small church in Brick Town, NJ, I finally enjoyed wonderful fellowship and family. I was unconditionally accepted, invited and involved with two sisters who included me in their nursing home music ministry. This involvement healed a very damaged area of my life, that of belonging I remember my first year in my new church as nurturing and many of my gifts were used and appreciated. Some areas of rejection and shame were temporally healed. Though my first pastor was disconnected from me and my inner struggles, close friendship with the two sisters gave me dignity and worth.
My bubble of security blew up a year later with the break-up of my church because of our pastors scandalous affairs, The shock left me abandoned and alienated and I floundered for many months in depression. Most of my brothers and sisters were deep in shock, and the newest believers still not fully established in their walks, ended up losing their faith. My grief lasted about a year and I decided I needed to find a new church and move on from the trauma. I ended up in a wonderful Assemblies of God church and resumed my Christ journey. A few sisters from the Brick town church ended up there also and I was joyous to resume fellowship with the. Sadly, that church began to lose members and folded..
My health declined and I ended up losing my apartment and had to find an affordable studio. I was at my wit’s end, desperate for a place. I turned to the newspaper and ended up looking at the companion/live-in assistance section of the Asbury park press. I had two options, but choose to move in and take care of an elderly stroke-victim gentleman who lived in Brielle, NJ. The day of my move in, a neighbor who lived directly opposite my new abode, introduced themselves. They happened to be Christians and invited me to their church. Though I was challenged by the responsibilities of a live-in position, I became part of my new church family.
The pastor of my new church was a gifted musician who owned a recording studio. He led worship at his church and was kind and soft-spoken. I made many new friendship here and hoped to part of the music team. God opened doors for me to minister in music at other churches and coffee houses, but I wasn’t asked to sing with our own worship team. I was very disappointed that my talents in singing were not utilized, but God was faithful in using me at other churches.
In one period of a few months, I had many bookings at church coffeehouses and youth family concerts. My focus was always on Jesus, although I had a flair for fashion. I found that my fashion flair was to be greatly misunderstood and caused me big problems with pastors of the churches I ministered to. I designed most of my stage outfits or wore vintage wear for my performances. As a professional, I knew that entertainers needed to look the part and not blend in with the average looking patrons. .
I was booked to do a concert with a full band at a conservative Nazarene church in Paramus, NJ. I arrived with my musician friend for a meeting with the coordinator of the coffee-house concert series. He was friendly enough and seemed impressed by my ministry bio. He shook my hand and told me how excited he was to have me minister to his congregation the next month.
The concert went well and the next week, another pastor from the sister church also asked me to minister at their coffeehouse. I wore an outfit I though was attractive, but appropriate for their conservative audience. I wore black slim-fitting slacks, a short bolero jacket embellished with gold flowered appliques and a white ruffled gypsy blouse.
The day after my successful concert, my pastor called me. He wanted to have a meeting with me. I wondered what pastor wanted to see me for and thought that perhaps he wanted to compliment me. The day of the meeting arrived and I walked into Pastor’s study. As I took my set opposite his desk, I was noticed the seriousness in his expression. He was quiet for a few seconds and broke the silence.
“Anita, do you like when men look at you?”
The question hit me like a bomb and my face flushed. I was speechless and insulted, wanting to exit at once, but gave him the respect. I asked him why he asked me that.
“I have some concerns. I had two phone calls discussing your concerts at the churches. The pastor said that the young men had a problem with you.”
At this, I felt betrayed and angry, but explained the positive effect I had on the attendees of the concert. I gave an altar call and people were lined up, waiting for prayer. Many signed my mailing list book and wanted to hug me.. Quite a few said my singing so blessed them. I was completely taken aback about the pastors report of me. Why didn’t the pastor speak to me directly if I was offensive to anyone? Pastor continued to question me about my concert
He then explained to me about men and their weakness when they look at an attractive woman. He said that when a Christian woman ministers, she has to try to make sure that men focus on the Lord and not at her attractiveness of her body. He assured me that he was not seeking to tear me down, but that he cared about me and wanted my ministry to be successful. He didn’t like to hear people talking about me in a negative or mistrusting way. That was why he had to straighten me out and help groom me so I could be blessed. Nonetheless, the sting of his words and opinion, so wounded me that I didn’t come to church for several weeks. It took that much time to pray let God work in me and grow from the painful experience
I eventually realized pastor’s intentions and started to heal from the discourse. I had to weed through many lies from the enemy about my worth and value and ignored the subtle condemning words I felt were to tear me down. I took pastor’s chastening as badly as I took my father’s beatings as a young girl. That fragile and deeply rooted wound would haunt harass me for many more years. Pastor was not as harsh as I deduced him to be but because of that stronghold of criticism and rejection, it was hard to separate it from my worth. Some of us, it will take strong and gentle nurturing and counseling in God’s word to reestablish wholeness and self-esteem. But, this deep healing and restoration can only come when we truly want to be delivered from the old painful shackles of our youth!..Many of God’s people are not emancipated because they do not truly want to be delivered. True and permanent wholeness will entail hard and honest daily soul-searching and spending serious alone time in the presence of Holy Spirit!
I have to confess that I rehashed that conversation over and over again in my mind. It took me awhile to let go of the resentment I felt towards the two pastors. I cried in shame and sadness and eventually asked Holy Spirit if there was any merit in pastors words. He was so gentle as the anger melted away. I deduced that it was better to be more m mindful of my wardrobe and what I wore outside the house so that I wouldn’t be a stumbling block for men. I wanted to please my heavenly Father more than anything. I began to be thankful for pastor bringing my dress to my attention. I also made sure to look in the mirror before I left the house to make sure my clothing was not too form-fitting to the point of stirring up unnecessary lust in men who saw me. My attention to this detail of my dress gave way to more carefulness and less concern about looking great. I wanted all the attention to go to the Lord and soul-winning! (I also had to learn not to be overly concerned that it was all my responsibility to not evoke lust in men. Some men were addicted to pornography and they had no desire to curb their flesh).
I had another issue with my pastor several months after my issue with my dress. It had to do with my buying an expensive guitar for my first instrument. I was also growing musically on my newly attained guitar skill. My guitar mentor urged me to go shopping with him and we ended up settling for a finely crafted and very expensive Taylor By this time, I went back to church and resumed fellowship. Pastor was glad to see me and we acted as if nothing had happened between us. My confidant Gregg was also glad to have me back and was happy that I had found fulfillment in my guitar playing and composing. He was upset that pastor and I had a falling out but reminded me that he was on my side. I was disappointed that Pastor still didn’t invite me to lead worship, so I continued seeking opportunities at other churches and coffeehouses. The Lord blessed me with the finances to purchase the Taylor guitar and I brought her to church one Sunday to show a brother on the worship team a new jazz song I had just written. He liked the song and congratulated me on my beautiful new and first guitar. Inwardly, I was bubbling over with joy to have such a beautiful instrument as my first guitar and knew my heavenly Father had made it happen for me.
The next thing I knew, pastor approached me and asked me to see him in his office. I felt trepidation because of our last meeting many months ago and asked Gregg to accompany me. I wanted him to witness our conversation.. Pastor closed the door behind Gregg and me.
“So Anita…how much did that Taylor cost?”
Again, I was stung by his directness.
“A thousand dollars, Pastor…and no tax,” I giggled nervously. He was not impressed.
“How is it that you can barely pay your rent and you need food from the pantry weekly. Why didn’t you get a cheaper one?”
I looked at Greg, whose mouth was open. I felt dashed and whipped again. I couldn’t believe pastor’s lack of happiness for me. So, Gregg and I sat under his chastisement for another half an hour and left feeling like beaten dogs with their tails between their legs! We talked about the conversation all the way to my house and I swore I would definitely not come back this time! Again, his mind was closed as to the details of God’s miraculous provision to buy the Taylor. He was uninterested that God provided by me being hired to do two very upscale and very well-paying private events at the restaurant I worked at. He didn’t give me any credit for my resourcefulness and willingness to work hard, nor my dedication to my musicianship. I felt that he just did not respect me or my talent. It was a hard realization to chew.
That was almost ten years ago. I’ve forgiven my pastor. He remains a true friend today and we both respect each other. God has done a deep work in my heart and in his..
Fast forward five years later, I attended a Messianic Passover event at my former church with my former pastor. He and his wife greeted me. I was happy to be back. After the Passover dinner, Pastor asked to talk to me . This time I wasn’t nervous.
“Anita, I want to apologize for the misunderstanding we had regarding your Taylor guitar. I was wrong to interfere in your business and to be so harsh. The Holy Spirit spoke to me one night and said, “What right do you have to tell her why she shouldn’t have that Taylor guitar”
I was very moved and told him I had no hard feelings and forgot about the issue long ago. I also told him how much I appreciate his counsel as it so helped me to be the woman of God I am today. He seemed very happy to hear that. Recalling that incident, I realize God worked it out for my good. Even after my initial reaction of his comments I forgave and gave it all to the Lord for Him to temper. Now it’s my habit to ask God to show me if there is truth in something someone said to me. I don’t want to miss out on anything that God had for me. My heavenly father always vindicates me if indeed I’m am innocent of an accusation. I still have a good relationship with pastor and thank God to know that there are still pastors who truly care to correct their flock lovingly and in truth.
Chastening is a Necessary Grooming
My experiences and meetings with that pastor taught me not to take criticism so seriously and to the point that their opinion affirmed who I was in Christ learned to give my feelings to Holy Spirit so he could dissect and teach me the true meaning of self-esteem as a child of God. We must learn that holding on to negative emotions is never conducive to healing, restoration and communion with our Father. We need to relinquish bad feelings quickly, so we can walk in peace and unity. Pastors also need learn to communicate openly and lovingly their concerns when they see their people go astray.
When we enter covenant with the Lord, part of our acceptance is His discipline. Many of us come into the family of God with no prior spiritual discipline, nor do we understand the necessity of chastening. Hebrews 12:3-10. Father’s indeed chastened us as seemed best to them, , but He, (Father God) for our profit. Father is grooming us as a bride without spot and wrinkle. In order to be that glorious bride, we must be like Queen Esther who was primed and manicured for her glorious reign as Queen. As we read in the book of Esther, we see the virgins being rigorously prepared for many months with the royal beauty and etiquette regimen. They were being groomed to stand before the king..
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us scripture is given for reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness so that we are thoroughly equipped for every good work. Reproof and correction draw us into right relationship with God and with our brethren. If Holy Spirit does not convict and teach us the right ways, we are not considered His rightful children. We would be considered illegitimate. Every good father seeks to groom and guide his children in ways of virtue and wisdom. My earthly father was overly strict and demanding when I was a young girl, but today, I see that his motives were godly and he wanted his daughters to be highly educated, resourceful and productive members of society. Many of us had cruel or harsh fathers who beat us for no reason. Some of us were baptized in severe dysfunction where even our good actions were misunderstood. We grow up as super sensitive adults and collapsed under the weight of criticism, rejection or misunderstanding.
I remember singing a simple worship hymn when I was a very young believer. It want like this, . “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord….Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord…and He shall lift you up…higher and higher and He shall lift you up.”
Sometimes when we are unjustly misunderstood, we have to surrender our hurt feelings to the Lord and ask him if there is any truth in words spoken to us. Sometimes, the person who misjudged us was indeed harsh, but we not take it to heart and seek the Lord’s wisdom about it, He will reveal the truth about us. Holy Spirit always leads us into knowledge and wisdom about ourselves and our Father in Heaven
Criticism and misunderstanding are always hard to swallow. My wounds ran deep regarding my unconventional ways of expressing my artistry or faith. I’ve learned that if I am to walk in peace, I have to mellow out and let God temper my anxiety, frustration or feelings of rejection and He does! I’m victoring over the area of weakness self sensitivity so that Father can use it for other sensitivity.
We are in the last days before Christ’s coming. Darkness has clouded many people’s emotions as well as God’s own people. All around us are suffering and wounded people. There is still so much work to do and still too many of God’s people are paralyzed and floundering in isolation and pity parties .There is a time for grief..and a time to move on.
Let us acknowledge the first step in walking in spiritual confidence…that we are adopted into the household of God upon conversion! We have a glorious inheritance a position in Christ. Eph 1:5 tells us that we are the accepted in the beloved and seated with Jesus in the heavenly places. How awesome is that?! As soon as we are born-again, we are fellow heirs with Christ, who is the chief cornerstone and we are living stones of God’s Holy house. We now have a purpose and our calling to be fellow builder of God’s house, 1 Cor 3:9-15 describes the spiritual materials used for our work Some of us will use gold, sliver, precious stones and some of us will use wood, hay and straw in the construction. Some of these material will withstand the heat of God’s holy refining fire, but others, such as wood and straw will be burned. What are you contributing to Father’s house? Christ has given each and every one of His brethren gifts and resources to contribute. We are no longer the recipients of the curses and generational strongholds of our ancestors, but upon our moment of redemption, inherit a new, holy DNA. That is too wonderful to acknowledge,. But so true.
We are a new creation. All things are new. If every new believer were taught this truth about their new spiritual heritage, the church would be thriving and limitlessness advancing the kingdom through passionate soul-winning! Many of God’s people are in bondage to the old nature and strongholds and feeling helpless to do anything about it.
A good pastor or teacher knows how to balance discipline with edifying, the believe can be adequately equipped for every good work! Good communication is essential to smooth out differences and misconceptions about each. Other. I know many church-hoppers who never put down deep roots anywhere because they have been so wounded by former pastors and fellow brethren who misunderstood or judged them harshly. There is no such thing as a perfect church and rest assured that the body of believers is made up of broken, dysfunctional and disillusioned people who were wounded and abused as children. The church is in reality a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints!
Eph 4:11, Paul urges us to be in unity with each other and that God gave gift and callings to His people: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints. That is the marvelous workmanship of the Father. He has ordained that all His children now have a job to do and a precious, Spiritual identity. No one should be floundering around, purposeless and insecure. Though most of us came from a diverse background of infirmities such as childhood dysfunction, spiritual abuse and/or pastoral detachment, we are no longer bound or conformed to the old, enslaving ways. Childhood wounds and abuse strongholds can be as complicated as a surgeon attempting to extricate a dangerous and life-threatening tumor! Many pastors are simply overworked, not attuned or not called regarding the delicate work of deliverance and freedom.
The Holy Spirit has led the way for us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to walk in the gifts of the spirit. Once we discipline ourselves and learn the appropriate ways of blooming in the fruits of the spirit, we will be on our way to wholeness and spiritual self-confidence! We will no longer be stifled by criticism or chastisement, knowing now that it is to steer us in the direction of holiness. Jesus told us to abide in Him, the vine, for we are the branches. When we abide in love, forgiving each other and walking in peace,, we abide in the vine. We allow Jesus to prune us when we humbled ourselves and let him work out unjust things said and done to us.
What a glorious living house God is fashioning! God’s holy house will be completed when all his people are on the same page of love. When pastors and teachers learn to handle the word of God correctly and apply it where necessary, deeply wounded people will find deliverance, freedom and restoration..They can’t be set free if they are ignorant of their new, changed spiritual DNA.