“The LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Most fathers view Proverbs 3:12 as a reminder of our responsibility and, indeed, our obligation to discipline our children. God disciplines us and we, in turn, should strive to follow his example by disciplining our children, not because we need to keep them from running amok, but because we are called by God to train them to be godly people. That perspective, however, completely ignores the most important part of Proverbs 3:12 — God disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Simply put, we are called to delight in our children.
Our call to delight in our children is not the same as delighting in their accomplishments. It is sometimes easy to confuse delight with achievement. For example, when they compete in sports we will often find ourselves complementing our children for their performance. While there is nothing wrong in communicating our enjoyment with their athletic achievement, that is not the same thing as delighting in them, which is even more important. Delight is not outcome determinative. Delight in our children does not have any strings attached. Delight in our children is enjoying them during the game, regardless of the outcome. It is the difference between saying “Great shot!” or “Good catch!” and simply saying, “Hey, I just loved watching you play! I loved seeing you with your team.” On the receiving end, it also feels different because the focus is not on achievement, but instead, on enjoyment, and what our children hear is “I watched you play, and I loved it.” Delighting in our children is having happiness and appreciation for who they are, not what they do.
In January of 2014 (was it really that long ago?) my son Conner and his bandmates in Room 24, a band they put together after meeting in Rock Camp, competed in the 101X Battle of the Bands in Austin, Texas. They won. But my delight was not in their triumph. My delight was in watching my son doing something he truly loved – playing guitar in a rock band.