Last week, I preached a Family Revival in Owasso. I told the congregation a story about something that happened to me in Linneus, Mo., and asked if anyone knew where Linneus was.
Usually when I ask this question, no one knows the answer. I like to explain that this town is 60 miles past the Great Commission: “Go to the ends of the Earth, take a left, go 60 more miles and you’ll find Linneus.”
This time, an elderly couple raised their hands. After the service, I approached them to ask how they knew about this tiny town. They told me they owned a farm near there. I went on to explain that I was actually from Chillicothe, Mo. and they said, “That’s where our farm is!”
I told them I later moved to Hannibal, Mo. to go to school at Hannibal-LaGrange College. The husband and wife looked at each other in shock and said, “That’s where we met and fell in love.” As we talked, we discovered that we know many of the same people.
The couple left, and I stayed around a few more minutes to visit. As I pulled out of the church onto the highway, I realized I needed to get something to drink. Looking up, I saw the big “M” glowing in the sky. I stopped at McDonald’s and decided to go inside instead of using the drive-through.
I entered the restaurant and saw a group of church people, including my brand-new friends, discussing the revival. The Missouri couple invited me to sit down, and we picked up our conversation right where we left off. They asked if I grew up in Chillicothe, and I told them I actually grew up outside of Buckner, Mo. I didn’t move to Chillicothe until junior high. When they asked about my elementary school, I told them, “I went to a small country school, Blue Hills Elementary.”
The man asked, “What do you remember of your principal?” I thought for a second and then it hit me: he had one arm. I looked at the one-armed man beside me and realized that there sat my elementary school principal, Harry Loosing. I hadn’t seen him for 51 years!
Before long, I got to talking about what I remembered most about elementary school. I recalled standing in line and deciding to smack the kid in front of me. After I did, I turned around . . . and looked straight up at our principal. With his one arm, he grabbed me by the shoulders and marched me into his office. I had heard rumors of the giant paddle on his desk. Sure enough, I came to face to face with it that day. Mr. Loosing didn’t give me a spanking, but he instilled the fear of God in this young boy. He told me every teacher kept a paddle on their desk. It was there to remind students that breaking the law carries a punishment.
My problems all started with my mean parents. You see, if I had gotten a spanking that day, another would have awaited me at home. My mean parents made me go to bed on time, sit down to eat with the family and work around our house and yard. They made me say “Yes, sir,” “No, sir,” “Please” and “Thank you.” They made me show respect to senior adults. They taught me that submitting to authority gave me protection and direction.
In the society of that era, if I acted up at school, my teachers disciplined me, and my parents supported them. When we removed the paddle, we filled our prisons. Scripture teaches, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24).
What caused the shift? The enemy has brought confusion about the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment satisfies the law, but discipline changes behavior. Bad behavior used to have logical consequences that young people feared. Today’s teachers tell me they are not allowed to discipline their students or find it too cumbersome to go through all the required hoops. Besides, most families believe the fault does not lie with the parents or their child, but with the teachers.
A society without respect for law is no society. But we must instill that respect at a young age. I am glad I learned respect from my grandparents, parents and a paddle on a desk, not from spending time in prison. Few learn to respect the law in prison because punishment doesn’t reveal love. Discipline, however, begins with love: “Because the LORD disciplines those he loves” (Proverbs 3:12).
Thank you Heavenly Father, Mom, Dad and Mr. Loosing for loving . . . me.