The rod of correction

Published 6:20 am Wednesday, November 1, 2023

By Les Ferguson Jr.

My dad is a good man. Maybe the best man I’ll ever know. I aspire to be like him in many ways. I’m thankful still for his abiding presence in my life.

I enjoy telling stories about him – I enjoy laughing with him about some of our escapades as father and son. 

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Believe me, there was a lot for him to correct in my life and he was often creative in changing my perspective. Maybe you read the story last week about not getting to eat. 

Next week I’ll tell you another story about front-yard football and Dad’s unique approach to getting my attention. 

Dad was a master at parental psychological warfare. Like me, maybe you heard at the beginning of a good old-fashioned butt-whupping the words, “This is hurting me more than it is hurting you.”

Are you kidding me? As the strap was being laid across my tender backside, was I really supposed to feel sorry for my father? As if poor old Dad was being forced to apply the proverbial rod of correction?

Years later I told my father that he misrepresented the whole process. It didn’t hurt him at all. He was happy to jerk a knot in my misbehaving self. 

I’m sure I needed way more than I received. 

But there is one episode that may or may not have ties to our Southern culture. At the least, I’m convinced it is not unique to me. This may in fact be a chapter in the parental school of psychological warfare. 

But here’s how it works. At some point, you smart-talked your mama, lied, picked on your sister, or otherwise disobeyed and the result is a promised crying time. But to crank up the fear, Dad says to go pick your switch. 

Do you get a short stick? Do you get one that’s too slender to swing effectively? Does it even matter? Because whatever gets picked, the school of dad ensures he can use it.  

However, there was an exception to that on one occasion. I was sent to get a switch and left the house trembling in fearful anticipation. However, as a child who was always looking for a way out, I found one in the form of a tree limb I could barely drag to the back door. 

And it worked in a fashion. Dad tried hard not to laugh aloud, and ultimately sent me to my room for the rest of the day. 

In some ways, it was a win for both of us. He didn’t have to hear me cry and wail and I survived to live another day. 

All these years later, I’m grateful for the upbringing my parents gave me. And dad? He’s a tender-hearted, kind man I would do well to emulate. 

I can’t help but believe the following commandment would serve our culture well would we embrace it…

“Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12 CSB)