One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was a punishment I received for making a mess in the basement of our house when I was just a boy. But this is what made it so memorable. The truth is I was always a kid who took the rules seriously. Of course, this didn’t sit too well with my younger brother who seemed to absolutely love getting into mischief. I was the “good boy.” It made life for my brother kind of hard.
But, one day, I really made a mess, and discovered first hand the negative aspects of discipline. I hated it. And I still do!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 5:1-15:
My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house; lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien; and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
“Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re use to…” This song was going through my mind as I prepared this devotional today because it reminds me that a lack of discipline in our lives produces both physical and spiritual problems in all of us. And the very fact that, no matter how many object lessons we see before us, we still find ourselves avoiding discipline in areas of our lives and still reaping the consequences of that undisciplined behavior. I remember a dear one sitting across from me in my office with tears in his eyes as he asked me “Father, why do I keep doing this to myself?”
And I had to admit, I’d asked that question of myself many times before.
But notice how our passage deals with this:
First, the way out of this addiction to undisciplined living is Family. Again, our writer is talking to us like a father talks to his son. We begin escaping from a lifestyle of undisciplined mistakes when we STOP trying to do this by ourselves. We were made for community. We were made for intimate communion with each other and the powerful motivation of mutual accountability. It’s when we find ourselves isolated and believing we are “self-sufficient” that we drift toward destruction. In fact, since we were made for communion, we hunger for this. But we fear communion at the same time because we are afraid of being discovered! That sets us up for a no win situation where we avoid the very remedy to our undisciplined lives!
Next, the key to escaping this conundrum is a willingness to do two acts – Acknowledge our deepest need AND understand taming our desires is a must. Our writer here illustrates this in using a word picture of a woman leading a young man astray. The very real and very good gift of attraction and intimacy, undisciplined by wisdom, leads the young man to destruction. Only by being willing to listen to his father’s advice can the young man avoid the disaster of undisciplined passions.
So, today, are you struggling with the consequences of bad choices, desires untamed, or mistakes that still have lingering effects on your life? You are not alone! We all face these moments. Now to the task of facing these realities in learning how to tame our passions by embracing community, responsibility, and wisdom. That’s what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!