As the oldest of three, it might not surprise you that my mom had to get creative at discipline. It also may not surprise you to learn that she found pretty quickly grounding me to my room wasn’t particularly effective. Between my legos and my bookshelf, I spent a lot of time in my room anyway.
But my mom’s pretty smart, so it didn’t take her long to devise the perfect punishment for me. We lived in a cul-de-sac at the bottom of a big hill. My punishment quickly became running laps to the stop sign at the top of the hill and back. I’ve never been one of those masochists who runs for fun. It was pure torture for me.
My little brother, on the other hand, was a different story. He’s a natural athlete, and he loved to run. I remember the first couple of times after my mom designed the “run to the stop sign and back punishment” – my brother did extra laps, just because he wanted to. And when he got back inside, he was even more rowdy than before.
It her a couple of weeks to figure out that the best punishment for my brother was the opposite – having to sit alone in his room.
Now, for any of you who are parents to more than one kid, you are not surprised by this, are you? Whatever aspirations to impartial parental justice we might have at the birth of a second child are dashed once their personality starts to emerge.
Any teacher or manager knows that same lesson: people aren’t all the same, and if you want the best out of people – children, students, employees – you can’t treat them all the same. We’re all motivated by different things. We all have different fears, dreams and hopes.
So it shouldn’t surprise us that faith is as complicated as the other parts of our life. And yet how many of us imagine God to be a distant, impartial judge who hands down a list of abstract rules to be obeyed?
But if a good boss knows you can’t treat every employee the same, how much more must God know that? If a good parent knows every kid is different, how much more must our creator know that?