(edited by P.Callaway)
When I was growing up in the 1940s, a spanking was called a “lickin,” and a swat was called a “lick.” Few people seem to know much about this anymore, so I was particularly intrigued by the excellent movie Places in the Heart.
The movie deals with love, sacrifice, determination, and racial prejudice. In one scene, a young widow is faced with the need to spank her son. The mother asks the 11-year-old how his daddy had spanked him before. The little boy obediently says, “Mom, I bent over the table and he would spank me with his belt.”
Distraught, the mother asks, “Would he hit you hard or softly?”
“What I did was pretty bad, Mom, so he would probably spank me hard,” the boy responds.
“How many licks would he give you?” asks the mother.
“Well, Mom,” The boy replies, “Dad would be pretty mad so he would probably give me ten.”
So the mother proceeds to give him ten swats. Through tears, she later says, “I will never spank my son again.”
It was a very moving scene, but I laughed at the difference between the mother portrayed in the movie and my own mother. My mom would have said, “If you do it again, I will give you twenty!”
Mom and Granddad, who helped raise me, believed in lickins. Boy, did they ever!
On one occasion I received two spankings. I had thrown a rock through the window of a moving car and my grandfather almost wore out his thick brown belt on my backside! When my mother got home from work, she did not think he had beaten me enough, so she went at me with a black plastic belt. I may have had welts on my legs from these two hard spankings, but I did not throw rocks at cars anymore.
When I was about six or seven, someone was selling fruit on the side of the road. It looked to me like they were making quite a bit of money, so I proceeded to open a fruit and vegetable stand myself. One thing was missing: product. We had no garden so I stole the fruits and vegetables from the neighbor’s backyard. It was a profitable little venture.
Until my grandfather found out.
He thought it was so funny and was laughing so hard that he could barely hold the belt to spank me. When Mom got home, she laughed in her room for a while, then got in a few good licks as well. I had to pay the neighbor back of course, but I don’t think that was enough. From then on, I noticed that whenever I passed his house, he watched me very close.
Growing up, I think my middle name was “lickin.”
The Word of God says there is a very important place for discipline. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death,” we are told in Proverbs 19:18. And again in Proverbs 22:15, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of discipline will remove it far from Him.”
In the New Testament we read of God’s discipline of us, His children:
My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives…it is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:5-11, all verses from the nasb).
Yes, God disciplines His children, but He has a purpose for doing so: It is for our good. How can this be? That we might share His holiness, His righteousness.
There is however, a difference in the way we discipline our children and the way God disciplines us His children. As earthly parents, we make mistakes. We give five swats when we should have given ten or twelve when we should have taken them for ice cream and had a meaningful talk.
But when God uses whatever means of discipline He wants to use, He knows exactly how much to give, what pressure to use, and in what situation. He spanks exactly right; not too hard and not too soft, but only that which accomplishes His purpose for His glory.
I knew my mom and grandfather loved me because of their care and—yes—even because of their lickins. If, like me, you have experienced God’s hand of discipline, remember the fruit it will bring. His love is felt daily as He cares and “reproves” us for our sake and especially for His glory.