I had one of those early morning "wake-ups" without the "back-to-sleeps." After an hour of laying in bad, sort of praying and sort of hoping I would fall back into unconsciousness, I got up and armed with prayer beads and Prayer Book did my morning praying a bit earlier. I was able to sit quietly for longer than usual, not much else to do at that time of day. The three readings from the Daily Office were my Biblical reflection texts. I read about Abraham sending his servant to find a wife of Isaac. It is a "Quest Story" and the servant prays for God's guidance and receives it. The message for me: pray more and trust more. Last week it seemed that God put in my heart the words "I am at work." The Genesis story today is an example of that.
However, the text from Hebrews 12 really jumped out at me, especially in light of my writing on being tested two days ago. For the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. The author of Hebrews does an extended meditation on the verses lifted from Proverbs 3:11-12. In the original context, Proverbs applauds those who give generously to the Lord (first fruits) and says God will bless them with more, then two verses on God's fatherly discipline of His children, and then a beatitude; happy the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding. Discipline!
The connection of discipline and disciple is obvious in English, but the Greek word was not from the root for disciple. Instead, I was surprised to find the word paidia. That Greek word is related to a similar sounding word which means child (where we get the words pediatric and pedophile). The word translated discipline is a schooling term and refers to the complete and holistic education of a child, including moral development. It occurs six times in the New Testament, four of them in Hebrews in this section. The other instances are Ephesians 6:4 where fathers are exhorted to raise up their children and train them and the famous 2 Timothy 3:16 all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for...training in righteousness. Training was my vocation for the better part of a decade at Youth Villages. Trainers provide information but are called to develop skills, too. Training is about applicable knowledge, it is arguably more pragmatic in its approach and goal.
In the Judaism of this time, beginning with Maccabees, the idea of "yisurin shel ahavah" (Chastisements of love) emerged as a central feature of rabbinic teaching [see The Jewish Annotated New Testament, p423]. The 2 Maccabees 6:12 says Now I beg those who read this book not to be disheartened by these misfortunes, but to consider that these chastisements were meant not for the ruin but for the correction of our nation. The JANT notes that this is a peripheral idea in the Jewish Bible, but grows to wide acceptance in the same time period that Christianity emerged.
The idea that we are being "schooled" by God is certainly consistent with the idea of testing. I have struggled with discipline in my own life, spiritually and physically. Setting aside time each day for prayer, scripture, meditation and study requires focus. Trying to eat right, exercise, and enhance relationships in the family is a challenge. Sometimes it is easier to lounge around, eat candy bars and be mindless. The disciple who seeks God (in response to being sought by God), as Hebrews emphasizes, sees Jesus not only as Lord and Savior, but also as Teacher and Example. Modeling our lives on Him ends up being the basis for understanding His teaching. Making Him your personal "Trainer" is the best means to become what you were created to be.
Like Abraham's servant we are also on a quest. The bridal image, marriage, is a type of Christ and the Church. Long journeys take strength, endurance and patience. Long journeys into the unknown demand steadfastness, courage, trust and hope. The Lord disciplines us because He loves us. Today in my workout, I was able to do something that I did not know I could do, in fact I did it twice. Afterward I was really excited because I had achieved a milestone which I have long ago thought was impossible to me. Discipline led to success. I had to push myself for months to achieve it. God pushes us to more because we need pushing, we need to learn we can do more and be more than we might think. And doing more, as we become more, we also become more His own possession. For the journey of faith is into the heart of God and all our efforts and all His disciplining are God's grace at work to make sure we rest in that heart some day!