Discipline Like the Garden of Eden

Today I snapped. It was the last straw. My son defied me, disobeyed me, one time too many. I could hear my mind screaming, “What punishment can I think of that will make him so miserable he will never want to act like this again?” It’s times like this that I need to step back, take a break, and work hard to be gentle and loving in my parenting.

So I place myself in Your Presence, God my Father. I want to learn from You, not only the techniques of loving discipline, but most importantly the disposition behind it. Please form my heart. Send Your Holy Spirit to guide me in my meditation today, and to change my attitude so I may more lovingly and effectively discipline my children, restoring our relationship while making real progress towards appropriate behavior.

Gentle Questions

I think of Your first act of discipline for man. In the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve disobeyed the only rule, and were hiding in fear and shame, You my God and Father, approached them.

My God, I would expect anger, and seemingly so did Adam and Eve. It was not a difficult command You gave them: there was so much food in the Garden, they had no reason to disobey; yet they did.

And rather than lashing out with angry lightning bolts, the first thing You did was to initiate conversation and give them a chance to confess. Your questioning was gentle but straightforward, You framed Your words to give them a strong hint as to what to say. Your questions traced the forbidden action back to its root, its initial cause.

Some say it’s notable that Adam and Eve make excuses and place the blame somewhere else, but I think the more striking fact is that You, my All-Knowing God, listened to them without interruption or contradiction. You did not shut them down ,or put them in their place, or humiliate them by forcing them to tell the story from a certain point of view. You gave them each a fair turn to state their fault as they saw it, and you accepted their admission, with all their guilty excuses.

Logical Consequences

Next, my God, you imposed logical consequences, starting with the serpent. The serpent, for his trickery and leading others into sin, became the basest of all the animals.

Eve, because of her abuse in influencing her husband to do wrong, became subject to him in all things. She believed the lie: “you shall not die,” and so was sentenced to pain in childbirth as her allotted first experience of pain and death.

Adam, for succumbing to the promise of an easy life (“you shall be like gods”) was sentenced to work hard to provide for his family and for himself.

And of course, since You warned them that the tree would bring about their death, they were assured they will one day die. You informed Adam and Eve of the consequences of their actions, and though some results may not have been immediate, they experienced them in their proper time.

No Need for Public Shame

Your next action, my God, may seem to be a small clarifying detail: You fashioned garments of animal skins for them. I think it’s a more important detail than it first seems.

Adam and Eve had tried to cover their guilt and shame by hiding and sewing clothes made out of leaves. Well, leaf outfits certainly would not last very long. You, my God, showed your mercy and removed them from the burden of trying to conceal their shame. You fashioned more suitable clothes for them and then you clothed them Yourself.

You did not expose them to further public shame, You did not rub salt in the wound. Instead removed their shame to protect them, to help them regain dignity so they could move forward in life.

Remove Temptations

One last thing You did in Your discipline: You removed Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Some may see this as the harshest part of the discipline – casting them out into the hard world to fend for themselves. But, my God, could it maybe be that You had some other purpose behind it?

The reason in Gen 3:22-24 says you removed them from the Garden lest they try to eat again of the Tree of Life and live forever. I’m sure to them it seemed like You were depriving them of something good. But their punishment, as You warned them from the beginning, was to die. So eating of the Tree of Life, causing them to live forever, would have been an action that tries to escape punishment – to avoid consequences.

The Tree of Life, though once a good thing, became an occasion of sin, a temptation, a means of running from responsibility for their actions. Although it may seem Your punishment was harsh and complete, I see once again You were working for their ultimate good.

Promise of Restored Relationship

And let me not forget, of course, the promise of hope You made to Adam and Eve. The omen you gave to the serpent of “enmity between your seed and her seed” was the first prophecy of Your Son’s role in redemption, the promise of a Savior. You left them, not in despair, but with hope to be reunited fully with you.

How I Can Discipline Like God the Father

My God and Father, help me apply this loving method of discipline to my own interactions with my children.

When they do something wrong, and wish to hide and escape from their wrongdoing, help me to be gentle, and to support their efforts in confessing and accepting their fault in their own way. Remind me, by Your example, that it’s not the end of the world when they make excuses or point fingers – I must try to see beyond it. Like You, my goal should not be to contradict them and force them to say what I wish to hear but to search for causes and understanding to help inform my decisions.

Help me to be just in assigning logical consequences. Teach me to find the balance that encourages my children to feel the effects of their wrongdoing and learn from their mistakes without going overboard.

Next, Lord, inspire me to have mercy like You did in removing their shame. Though they must bear the guilt and consequences of their actions, their faults are not to be exposed to cause further hurt.

Also, Lord, though it may seem unfair and hurtful to my children, give me the strength to remove them from temptation, whether it may be a toy, playdate, or circumstance that they cannot handle.

Finally, my God, inspire me to give my children a promise of hope and reconciliation. Help them to trust me through the pain, as Your Chosen People trusted in You in their anticipation of the Messiah. Let my discipline always teach my children Your ways: Your gentleness, Your mercy, and Your love.

My Father, thank You for this time with You and for blessing me with Your presence and guidance. Help me keep in mind the image of You as a loving, gentle Father in the Garden of Eden. When I return to my son and address his wrongdoing, I want to discipline him, not from frustration and exasperation, but from love – the type of love that You show to all Your children, even when we make mistakes. Guide me and be my example; help me to create a more loving, Godlike, orderly, happy home. Amen.


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