Twenty-three small artificial jetties constructed of granite boulders jutted into the Atlantic Ocean. Built to prevent beach erosion, the jetties obstructed four miles of the barrier island’s beachfront property. Our family rule about the jetties was as resolute as the jetties themselves: No climbing on the rocks.
One summer, our son failed to “give careful thought to the paths for [his] feet and be steadfast in all [his] ways” (Proverbs 4:26). His seven-year-old curiosity and inclination to climb enticed him to scramble to the top of a jetty.
“Brandon, get off those rocks before you … ” My husband’s lips were in the process of forming the word “fall” when a large wave broke over the jetty, wedging our son’s foot between the boulders and hurtling him against the rock.
From inside the house, I heard Brandon scream.
I reached the screen door in time to watch my husband, his face white, racing across the sand dune with our son cradled in his arms. Blood gushing from a nasty gash in Brandon’s shin soaked my husband’s shirt. I started the shower, grabbed a stack of beach towels, and hurried down the porch steps.
My husband, a family physician, spoke few words as he cleaned sand and gravel from the gash. Furrowed into his brow were anger, disappointment, panic, and an incredible sense of relief our son was alive. Stitch by stitch, he formulated the “reasons for rules” lecture he planned to deliver after tending Brandon’s wound.
Discipline for a child encompasses a period of pain. Brandon, suffering the consequences of his free-spirited jaunt on the jetty, sustained twenty-two stitches. He bore his father’s lecture and endured the remainder of the vacation, fishing from a lounge chair on the beach while his brothers frolicked in the waves.
Discipline, comprised of pain alone, falls short of grace. It leaves the child downtrodden and produces a harvest of brokenness. Biblical discipline modeled by our heavenly Father in the book of Jonah provides a pathway of redemption and restoration. It reinforces the child with love and produces a harvest of healing.
While God provided Jonah’s redemption through the belly of a fish, my husband provided our son’s redemption through a bait bucket filled with fish. Every morning he filled Brandon’s bucket with fresh minnows, repositioned the lounge chair according to the incoming or outgoing tide and propped a rod-n-reel against the arm of the chair. He tended not only Brandon’s wounds— changing the dressings daily and watching for signs of infection—he also tended Brandon’s heart.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:11-13).
Brandon never again climbed the rocky jetty. His curiosity and sense of adventure, however, followed him into adulthood. These days my husband and I smile as Brandon patiently diverts the attention of our one-year-old grandson who, like his daddy, has the propensity to climb.
Read more of Sherry’s writing at Legacy Coalition: Grandparenting That Matters.