Posted tagged ‘flunking’

Grace Makes Me Squirm!

July 9, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     July 9, 2019

                                  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV)

When it comes to foreign languages I’m suspect! Always have been, from two years of Spanish in high school, a flunking quarter of Latin in college, and a “Did Not Pass” in Hebrew one fateful term in seminary. I could blame it on my Kentucky and Southern Ohio roots where English words are pronounced differently or just man up to my weakness.

It drove me to cheat! Yes, that’s right! In Mr. Gerling’s Spanish 1 class at Maysville High School I looked for any way to avoid flunking, so there were a few times where I glanced at someone else’s “examen” (I just used Google to find out the Spanish word for exam! See!)

So when I received a “B” in Spanish the feeling of accomplishment was tainted by my own feelings of guilt. What I received I hadn’t earned. It made me squirm, but, of course, I was not forthcoming with the sharing of that knowledge with my parents. 

There is something about us, about our nature, that makes us uncomfortable about receiving something we haven’t legally earned. I should say “most of us”. The recent college admissions scandal is an example of people who have used their influence and wealth to gain something not earned, and they didn’t seem to feel uncomfortable over the situation until they were discovered.

But I was “squirmed” by my Spanish B! 

I think of that classroom episode when I ponder the grace of God. Cheating on Spanish tests is not the reason I think of grace, but rather that feeling of guilt- Baptist guilt, mind you, the worst kind!- that descended upon me.

What I’ve found is that a lot of followers of Christ are very uncomfortable with grace. It’s like they snuck into the ballpark and suddenly found themselves in the VIP seats. There is that nagging feeling about receiving something that was not earned. 

It makes grace, this amazing gift of God, so uncomfortable to receive. 

Many followers of Jesus resort to one of our foundational societal norms: earning whatever it is we desire to receive. Most of us desire to be loved. Some people go through their whole lives trying to earn their parents’ love. Some spouses try to earn the love of their husband or wife, even though they’ve said marriage vows that say as much. We desire to be loved.

Followers of Christ desire to be loved by God. Some accept his unconditional love and experience the embrace of His grace. From my 36 years of pastoral ministry, however, I will tell you that most Christians are so uncomfortable with the grace of God that they seek to earn it. 

They serve out of obligation. They worship out of duty. They pray out of a sense of  responsibility. They read scripture as if it’s a chore. The spiritual barrier in their lives is the acceptance of God’s grace. They just can’t quite go there. It feels…what’s the word…unearned!

And that’s because that’s what it is! Unearned. It goes against the grain.

There are, mind you, other people who are on the other end of the spectrum. That is, they take the grace of God for granted. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Over the years the people who have embraced the grace of God and lived their lives refreshed by His grace are a small congregation. Many others fluctuate between grace-filled living and trying to earn the love of God. I know, I’m one of them!

I squirm as I admit that, even more than I squirmed when the B showed up on my report card for Spanish 1. 

Bad Grades Revisited…44 Years Later!

February 15, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           February 15, 2016

                              

They had become a distant memory, like an old girlfriend who you now struggle to simply remember her name.

And then I decided to begin the process to be hired as a substitute teacher! Steps one through thirty were fine, but then came the part where the Colorado Department of Education wants copies of your college transcripts…ALL your college transcripts!

When I transferred to Judson College in Elgin, Illinois in the fall semester of 1974 I was teetering of the slippery edge of academic probation. One more unimpressive quarter at Miami of Ohio University meant I would be asked to take a little vacation. A singing group from Judson visited our church one Sunday in the summer of 1974 and a week later I was applying to be a transfer student at the small American Baptist-related institution. A man named Wendell “Press” Webster saw some potential in the student from Ironton, Ohio who had complied a GPA in his first college quarter of “.533!” That’s right! I didn’t put the decimal point in the wrong place…”.533!” From there it was all uphill for the next year and a half.

Let me say that I didn’t knock the professors dead at Judson with my academic excellence, but I did do okay, and graduated after two years.

All that had become ancient history to be told again after my death! But then there was the application process!

What’s that saying? The sins of the past will always come back to haunt you. I never thought that failing Latin would come back to haunt me, but it now has. The irony in the situation is that one of the classes I’ve been asked to substitute teach in is Latin! Gous figureus!

Don’t worry! I’m being approved to substitute, but the memories of that past failure…and failing grades…is once again fresh in my mind. Sometimes we pay for our times of stupidity over and over again. My stupidity took the form of cutting classes, trying half-heartedly on important assignments, not navigating the waters correctly of English Composition 101. Things I should have known better about, but thought I could slide by.

Forty-four years later I can now laugh with just a hint of embarrassment.

My absence of excellence and mass of ignorance in those past actions brings a new sense of appreciation for the grace of God. I realize that the God I serve looks at the screw-ups and pitiful efforts of my past and says that because I follow his Son those things, those bad marks, and failing experiences have been forgotten. I no longer need to bring them up for review as I go forward.

God accepts me even though my Latin is suspect. Amazingus magnus!