The Grace of Discipline and Changing Diapers Part 1

By Aaron Elder


I have three young kids at home, Hannah, Gideon, and Nora. Hannah has been out of diapers for a while, but not so for Gideon and Nora. If you’ve ever had a kid in diapers, then you know that poopy diapers must be dealt with in short order or a rash quickly develops. Gideon recently dealt with a rash so painful that when we changed his diaper, he would do everything in his power to avoid being cleaned.

Sometimes I would try to clean gently, but other times I just made it quick – and it was painful. I want to stop here an ask a question – as you read this, have you ever thought of this as being chalk-full of grace? We talk about grace in lofty spiritual terms and it’s easy to lose the substance of it. If grace is defined as unmerited favor, would not this scenario be a demonstration of that? I didn’t have to change Gideon’s diaper. It wasn’t earned and Gideon could not have forced me. What he actually earned was to sit in his messy diaper…unchanged.

Additionally, as an important side note, we have family staying with us and though I’d be willing to, I don’t change their kids’ diapers. Why? Because they’re not mine. Gideon is mine. And I change his diaper precisely because he is mine. He has found favor in my eyes and I clean him even as he fights against it because I know that is what he needs. Failing to clean Gideon would only make things worse. So even as he writhes in pain, I am lavishing on grace.

I use this example because it came up in a parenting conference we attended in the fall in the context of discipline. The speaker likened discipline to changing a diaper – it just needs to be dealt with. You shouldn’t be surprised and you need not be embarrassed – you deal with it and you continue about your day walking with the Lord.

We, parents, struggle with discipline much more than our kids. Whether it is taking our instruction from the humanistic philosophy or a fear of disciplining in anger, we struggle to obey God and one of the major problems that I see is that we don’t view discipline as grace.

Sometimes to get a proper perspective, I’ll ask Hannah about her friends. “Hannah,” I say, “does daddy discipline Susie?” “No.” She says with a giggle. “Why not?” I ask. “Because she’s not an Elder,” replies Hannah.

I discipline my kids for the same reason I change their diapers. Because they are MINE. What their disobedience earns is bitterness and grief – that’s the condition they deserve to be in.

But because they are mine, they have found favor in my sight. God’s will for my kids, and thus my desire, is that they walk in obedience to Him. And as uncomfortable as it is for me to execute discipline, I do. And in so doing, I lavish on grace.

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