Chancing the Narrow Gate

August 26, 2022  •   Tracy Earl Welliver

women pointing at her toddler

From doctors to counselors, anthropologists to schoolteachers, it seems like everyone has their own parenting style to peddle, guaranteeing it will result in a happy and well-adjusted kid.

You’ve got “gentle parenting,” predicated on respect for the child’s feelings and needs. You’ve got “attachment parenting,” based on the belief that kids need time to adjust to being outside of the womb. You’ve got “free-range parenting,” where self-sufficiency reigns supreme.

But of all the parenting approaches I’ve come across, I’ve never encountered a philosophy that rejects discipline altogether. There are lots of conflicting opinions on how best to administer that discipline, but I’ve never heard any parent or parenting “expert” worth their salt say that a mother or father should completely ignore misbehavior that threatens the well-being of the child himself.

Discipline is in our human DNA. Consider for a moment what the world would look like if it came to be filled with people who had never been taught to reflect on their life challenges. People who bristled at the suggestion of personal growth.

And yet we become this way with God. Even the most “devout” among us shy away from occasions of divine constructive criticism. We avoid confession and forego daily examinations of conscience. We keep things superficial in our prayer life, avoiding depth of heart and real intimacy with God, afraid of what He will speak to us.

But when we do this, we rob ourselves of an opportunity to rely on God’s fatherly strength, to rest in His mercy, to fill ourselves up with His goodness. We’re putting up our hands, saying: “No thanks, Father, I’m good. You can keep your discipline. You can keep your grace.”

When we do this, we are making a beeline for the “narrow gate,” sure of our own strength and ability to pass through it. All I can say is this, proceed at your own peril. Are you so sure of yourself?

— Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

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