When my husband was a little boy, about 4 or 5 years old, there was one lesson he absolutely refused to learn: Don’t color on the walls with markers. For some reason he was disobedient in this particular way over and over and over again. It didn’t matter how many times he got spanked, he just kept on doing it.
I once asked why he so stubbornly refused to learn this lesson. He had no idea. I then asked him what sorts of things he drew. Given that he underwent such persecution for the sake of art, what masterpiece was he so committed to rendering? Ike replied, “I liked to write the ABC’s. Another time I drew a boat. And I think I wrote my name.”
I imagine most parents deal with this sort of disobedience at one time or another. It doesn’t matter how many times you discipline a child, they refuse to let go of the behavior.
I also imagine that the sort of sentiments a parent feels when their child refuses to learn, especially in the face of a destructive behavior, are similar to God’s. Children aren’t the only one’s refusing to learn and let go of their sin. We do it all the time. God may discipline us over and over again, but for some reason we refuse to loosen our grip.
I was reminded of this the other day when I read Proverbs 27:22:
“Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.”
If you’re like me and have no idea what a “mortar with a pestle” means, I pasted a picture of one above. As the verse implies, it’s a tool used for grinding things, like grain.
This verse challenged me with the reality that God can discipline me, allow me to go through a really hard time or struggle, and I can choose NOT to learn from it. Like a fool holds onto his folly, there are some areas in which it doesn’t matter how many times I am “crushed,” I will not let go.
This verse therefore places a degree of responsibility on our shoulders in the face of hardship. The way you respond to a struggle or tragedy has everything to do with how it shapes you. So while we like to comfort one another with the cliché encouragement: “This will make you stronger,” that’s not entirely true. You can choose not to get stronger. You can run and hide in any number of ways that will stifle growth. You can cope with your pain using alcohol, dieting, shopping, work, church busy-ness, and the list goes on. Any activity that enables you to avoid confronting the false idols in your heart and your relationship with God is going to prevent you from growing.
So pray for open eyes to see what God is teaching you. Refuse to run and hide when hard time comes. Instead ask God to search your heart and loosen your grip. Don’t let your pain go in vain. Resolve to learn for the obstacles in your life, and let God separate your folly from you.