My Father’s Discipline
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.” Revelation 1:17-18
Working in addiction medicine, it’s not uncommon to meet those who rebel against all authority – those who seem to pursue conflict. I’ve certainly been guilty of going my own way over the years, but the personality that relishes conflict is a mystery to me. Growing up, I hated any sense of division. I was that kid who responded easily to discipline because I hated the sense of conflict between me and my parents. I responded quickly to time outs because I couldn’t stand being in trouble. That sense of being in the wrong was just so uncomfortable to me.
My dad must have been able to sense that. When he had to discipline me, he always came to me after, giving me a hug and letting me know that it was alright. I was still his son. He still loved me. It wasn’t an apology for the discipline. He wasn’t rescinding the rules. Rather, it was reassurance that we were still on the same side. He had to correct me. I responded. We were good. Had I been defiant in the face of his discipline though, I’d not have received that loving reassurance. Had I remained defiant forever, I would have propagated the division and perhaps ruined the relationship.
I get this fatherly vision of Jesus when I read today’s passage. In it, John saw a version of Christ that was terrifying enough that John fell at his feet as though dead. Jesus was sensitive to John’s dread and comforted him. He put his hand on John and told him not to be afraid. He didn’t change or apologize for his appearance. In fact, he reinforced his power and authority. I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Jesus saw John’s fear and trembling, and he knew why he was afraid. His comfort wasn’t to apologize, but rather to reassure John that they were on the same side. Yes, I’m frightening, but only to those who aren’t my children. You are mine. Don’t be afraid.
I received comfort from my father after discipline because I responded appropriately to it. John received comfort from Christ because he responded appropriately to him. There’s a lesson there. If we remain defiant to God, there is no comfort. If we go our own way, we should be fearful of the consequences. We find peace and comfort in God only when we choose to live on his side.