Ever sucked on one of those sour candies that turns sweet? One of my 6th hour students pulled one from his sweatshirt pouch last week and let me try one. Popping it in my mouth, I puckered like my four-year-old does when he eats any meat besides McDonald’s chicken nuggets. It lasted about twenty seconds before the sweetness melted through. That same sourness is leftover from last Friday’s professional day. I feel convicted to write about it, hoping that God’s sweet grace will cover my sins—actually, scratch that … KNOWING that God’s sweet grace will cover my sins.
There we were, all twelve or so of us, sitting in the computer lab, preparing to set off on a journey to grade the MDPT writing assessments from across the state. Having done this numerous times before, I had already prayed that I would diffuse all complaints from my system. Coffee flowing through my veins, I was ready to crank these out. Bring it on, baby! It took all of four to five minutes for it to happen. The first sample of … dare I say stupidity? No, that might be too harsh. Let’s just say the kid wasn’t a fan of periods. Or commas. Or capital letters. It scraped on my nerves like the whiney voice of Caillou, the cartoon my boys used to watch.
“Oh, dear!” I laughed aloud.
“What?” my colleague leaned over to take a peak.
“I think this kid texted in his response,” I said shaking my head.
My comment seemed to set off a barrage of insults that came from all corners of the room. I won’t repeat them. As I chimed in a few more times, guilt began to creep in. I began to wonder … what would these kids say if they heard us? How much would our sarcasm cut straight to their hearts? How long would these wounds take to heal? I quickly tried a different tactic, pointing out to all a kid that had actually rocked the assessment, but it was too late. It was much more fun to get our jollies off the kids that fouled it up. As we continued our odyssey through the tests, a scripture my boys memorized last year for church came to mind.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4: 29).
Ouch. I wasn’t building up at all.
The worst thing was that I could have spoken up. I could have! It was on my heart, yet I worried my colleagues would think poorly of me. I’m a peacemaker. Stirring the pot is the last thing I want to do, and I avoid confrontation like the Bubonic Plague. So, after grading for a good hour, we began taking our breaks to keep fresh. The state recommended 15 minute spurts whenever needed. Mine turned into a little bit longer. I wanted to finish the FCA PowerPoint for my student athletes that I had been working on. Others were on e-mail. Checking their phones. Texting friends about where to meet for lunch. Once that break time began, it never seemed to end.
I began to wonder—again. If I was teaching a lesson and I found a kid playing a game on his iPad, what would I do? I can tell you what I’d do. Lockdown, baby! His app store would disappear. Facetime. I-Messaging. Games. All of it. That is the policy our team has taken to during this last month of school, and believe me, the kids are fighting it tooth and nail. Sometimes I feel like the iPad police! I hope you see where I am going here. What about me? Why am I expecting my students to be on task when I find trouble doing it myself? Quite the double-standard. Dare I say hypocrite?
Jesus sure doesn’t beat around the bush when He says, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7: 5).
Guilty. Log removed.
Can I simply end this in prayer? Father, forgive me when I don’t live up to your standards. I pray that the words of my mouth can be as sweet as honey, lifting others up, not tearing them down. Let me be consistent, whether the people I am speaking of are with me or not. Lord, it is so easy to slander others when they are not around. Crush these poisonous words! Focus me on the tasks You need me to complete, and let me be proud to proclaim Your truth amongst non-believers. Most of all, thank you for Your grace that covers all my sin. It is in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Grace. Grace that covers all my sin. Wiped clean for me. For you. Every time we mess up. No exceptions. Pretty cool, huh? I am not sure about you, but I am savoring the sweetness of THAT candy.
(The Newsboys get it right about being guilty. The only thing I want to be guilty of is following Christ with reckless abandon. Listen to their latest hit “Guilty” below.)