Punishment that Brings Peace – Terri Miller

An incident occurred in my family when I was a young girl of seven or eight years old that I have rarely shared. It was not my finest hour.

It must have been a Sunday afternoon because my parents were napping in their bedroom. Sunday afternoon naps were a ritual during those years. For reasons I can no longer recall, I crept into my parents’ bathroom, located a box of matches kept in the vanity drawer, and proceeded to methodically strike them. The blue flame would make its way down the stick, turning it black as it went. At the last minute, before it reached my fingers, I would drop it into the toilet where it would let out the tiniest of sighs as it gave up the ghost.

I don’t remember how long this went on or how many matches I lit, but when I’d grown bored with the exercise, I put the box back and slinked out of the bathroom, past my dozing parents, and into my room to find some other mischief to get into. In my young mind, I fully believed I’d gotten away with this act of reckless disobedience with my parents none the wiser.

I was wrong.

A couple of days later, my six-year-old brother and I were summoned to the living room. Unbeknownst to me, I’d left evidence of my crime behind. Some of the spent matches had missed the toilet and were left on the floor beside it. The cross examination of the suspects got underway. With every denial, my dad became more and more angry. An easy-going man who was forever cracking jokes and making puns, Daddy could always be counted on to keep the mood light. Not so on this day. I’d never seen him angry before, and it was quite unsettling.

I can no longer remember the exact threats that were issued, but I do remember the questioning was more intense than I’d ever experienced. This wasn’t going to end until he found out who the transgressor was. The rod was going to be applied. That was clear. There would be no peace until the guilty one was found out and the punishment handed down. The longest minutes of my young life ensued, and my heart pounded against my chest. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it any longer, a confession broke the silence.

“I did it,” my brother blurted out.

Christian magazine summer issue
Photo by Karen Castleberry

I was stunned. Many years later, I learned that my parents were stunned as well. They had suspected me from the beginning because they knew I had been in their bathroom while they slept. Without proof, though, they couldn’t be sure, and there was no cause to doubt this confession.

As I stood silently by, the innocent one was led away to the gallows, and I, the guilty one, went free. Punishment was administered, and peace settled on our house again. To this day, I don’t know why I so firmly denied my guilt. Perhaps it was the most basic and human of all mankind’s traits:  self-preservation. I simply did not want to get a spanking.

There is a prophetic description in Isaiah 53:5 of the coming Messiah that says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement [punishment] for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed” (NKJV). That picture came alive for me some 45 years ago, although it took me many years to make the correlation.

When Jesus came on the scene, there was chaos and sin. These needed to be dealt with in order for there to be lasting peace between God and man. Mankind was guilty. The Father knew this. Jesus knew it too. Yet He stepped forward and took the punishment for our sin. The innocent One was led away to be nailed to a cross while we, the guilty ones, went free.

Romans 8:17 indicates that we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ. I suppose it is reasonable to say, then, that He is our brother. The brother stepping in to take our place and bring peace between our Father and us.

Christian magazine summer issue
Photo by Karen Castleberry

Over the course of time, I revealed to my Mom and Dad that I had actually been the one striking matches in their bathroom on that Sunday afternoon. The incident has become part of our family’s story. I still don’t understand why my bother did what he did. Perhaps he was protecting me. Or maybe he just wanted peace. Either way, he modeled something that day. He showed us what a selfless love looks like.

Copyright © 2020 by Terri Miller


Terri Miller is an Alabama girl who loves gardening, cooking and bird watching in her backyard. She lives with her husband of 34 years and their Boston terrier, Gabby. Terri has worked in the technology arena for 23 years, but her real passion is writing about the moments in life that connect us to God and to each other. You can follow her blog at https://lifeismoments.blog/.

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