Can you still remember being a kid growing up in church and having to sit through the preaching service? That had to be one of the longest hours in the creation of time for a restless kid. No matter what you did time just crept along. To make matters worse your mother wanted you to actually sit up straight and behave. Behaving in church was a given that was instilled into me from the cradle roll. After all, to a child church was where God lived.

I watch the children today in church and think of how different it was as I was growing up. Even after I was old enough to sit away from my parents I still knew my mama’s eagle eye was on me. There was that sixth sense your every move was being monitored and recorded. That survival instinct was never wrong because there were signals that let me know she was there. Every disciplined kid knows those warning signals of a cleared throat, a shifting of positions, a stare to freeze a charging bear and the all telling rustling of papers and Bible. Then the hour of reckoning came when you got home. My mother had never heard of attention deficit disorders associated with hyperactivity. There were no timeouts in your room, grounding for a few days or heart-to-heart talks used as an attention getter. Mama’s philosophy on life was, “You may not be the smartest kid in the world but you can at least behave.” All those bruises from being pinched in church were testimonies to this philosophy of learned behavior.

What I got in this exchange was the lost art of having to go outside and select my own switch. A fellow knew in his heart the unwritten rules said it couldn’t be too small or limber, otherwise Mama would go get one and things would deteriorate in a rapid manner. All negotiations would quickly cease and hostilities would immediately begin. Selecting your own switch is a lost art on this generation and I’m afraid it shows.

I never worried about DHR helping in those days; I was more worried about TAR because mother was threatening to beat the living tar out of me. Even today when I hear a mother clear her throat in church I sit up straighter on the podium. Sometimes as I’m preaching I can hear papers being shuffled and I have an almost uncontrollable urge to stop and go outside and cut a hickory switch. 

Discipline is something none of us enjoy. Even as an adult we don’t want to be told what to do. We want our space in life and to have instant gratification of all our needs. It is built in our nature to take the road of least resistance and look after No. 1. It’s a difficult thing to surrender our perceived freedoms to anyone or anything. Yet Christ came and reminded us true freedom is in service to others. He taught us self-control and discipline in our lives are characteristics of maturity. Remember the verse where He told us a person only gains their life by losing it. It seems discipline is a lost quality in modern life, and that is a shame.

You get the idea, so I’ll move on and start studying for Sunday. Studying is also a discipline because we are to study to show we are workmen who need not be ashamed but know how to discern God’s word. So, I’m going to study for this Sunday. After all, I’m getting too old to select hickory switches.


Dr. Gerald Hallmark is a retired minister living in Alexander City whose column appears here each Friday.