Time Out

By Michael Smith

A Reading from Hebrews 12:3-11

3 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children —

“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
6 for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.”

7 Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? 8 If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. 9 Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. 11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Meditation

In the early months of the pandemic, when we were first tasting the isolation of the lockdown and wondering why such a thing was happening to us and where God was in all this, there were discussions about periodic outbreaks of disease dangerous to humans being part of the natural order. Others discussed God’s “permissive will” and some even held biblical notions of plagues as the Almighty’s punishment for sin.

However, there was a meme circulating on social media that caught my attention. It mused: “It’s like God has put the whole world in ‘time out’ to think about what we’ve done.” I have disciplined my own children in that way, and I am reminded of such with the Hebrew writer’s comparison of God to a parent who disciplines daughters and sons as an act of love.

I have had much to think about during this “time out.” I had taken for granted such simple things as health, contact with family and friends, going to church and the grocery store, attending meetings, celebrating holidays, etc. And the list goes on and on. When things get better, I want to remember the lessons learned during these difficult days.

What have you learned during this “time out”? Are you able to give thanks yet for the lessons learned? “Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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