For years the last pick in the NFL draft has been given the unfortunate name of Mr. Irrelevant. Pretty harsh, right? Well, that name took on an entire different meaning this past week when the Denver Broncos traded their final pick to the Tennessee Titans. Kalan Reed, cornerback from Southern Mississippi, walked onto the stage to be recognized, but there was a slight problem. The NFL had only created ONE Mr. Irrelevant jersey—a Denver Broncos jersey. So there was poor Kalan with a look on his face that seemed to say “get me the heck outa here” holding a jersey from a team that didn’t even draft him. Talk about rubbing salt on the wounds of irrelevancy!
I wonder about something. Have you ever felt irrelevant before? Have you ever made a mistake in the classroom that led guilt to crash into your soul like a tidal wave? Romans 3: 23 declares that we all fall short of God’s glory, so my guess is that you’ve had your fair share of mistakes. I had one of those mistakes last week when I spouted off in sarcasm and anger at two sweet girls in my 3rd hour class. They had asked to leave my class for the fourth straight day to go practice with the 8th grade orchestra for their concert at Worlds of Fun last weekend. Thinking they were favoring orchestra over English, I reluctantly signed them a pass and vented that I didn’t like seeing my class “play second fiddle” to orchestra. Pun WHOLEHEARTEDLY intended.
The girls felt awful. I have to admit that I did as well. Each one sent me an e-mail apologizing later that day because they didn’t want to be on bad terms with me. The floodgates of guilt had opened, and I knew it was time to inject myself with a heavy dose of humility. I responded back to each girl apologizing for my harshness, but I didn’t stop there. When I saw them the next day in class, I apologized again, letting the entire class hear my apology. My 3rd hour actually clapped for me! But the biggest applause that mattered most was from God as I attempted to bury the hatchet of harshness by writing each girl an Ohana pass that I gave to each girl in private. These are passes I give out for good deeds, and the kids tack them on the wall under their hour. Each girl proudly put her Ohana pass up knowing that all was now well.
James 4: 6 states, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” As a teacher, there will be times when you make those kinds of mistakes. Humble yourselves. Seek forgiveness from your students. We are so far from perfect, and this time of year when patience wears thin, guess what? You might have a moment or two like mine above. You may think yourself to be irrelevant, but there is something bigger than irrelevancy that is given out for free. You know what it is? Grace. God’s grace. It takes the mess of our lives and wipes it clean. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5: 8). Confessing my sin to God that night, I knew it was all good. His forgiveness comes free. Human forgiveness is a little more difficult, and I had to work to get those two girls back. But humility won them back over.
These little things are what Bill Hybels calls “Category 1 Minor Offenses” in his book Simplify. They can be dealt with easily, and if we are on the short end of the stick, we simply need to get over them. “Category 2 Legitimate Wounds” are next. These scars cut a little deeper. It might be betrayal. More than just a speed bump as Hybels says. Finally, Hybels explains that “Category 3 Life Shattering Injustices” come last. On the topic of forgiveness, these are the worst to overcome. They rock someone’s world. They leave wounds so deep that emotional scars will be carried for the remainder of your life. The overwhelming truth is this: It doesn’t matter which category you reside in because God’s grace covers it all.
As my Saturday morning men’s group covered this chapter months ago, our leader Keith asked if any of us had ever been the victim of a Category 3 Life Shattering Injustice. Thank the good Lord that nobody had, but my heart burned with guilt. Although I had never been victim, four years ago this week to be exact I had been the perpetrator of one. I don’t care to share the messy details right now. Not publically at least. As I sat there slumping in my chair at my men’s group, a tear soon trickled down my cheek. But the thing was it wasn’t a tear of guilt. It was a tear of overwhelming gratefulness and thanksgiving. You see, God’s grace covers even the most heinous crimes. There is absolutely nothing that the blood of Christ can’t wipe clean.
Think about that. Stop beating yourself up for every little mistake you make. Whether it is a Category 1, 2, or 3, it doesn’t matter to God. His love for His people is too great! Matthew West speaks to much truth in his song “Grace Wins” when he sings, “There’s a war between guilt and grace, and it’s fighting for a sacred space, but I’m living proof grace wins every time.” Do me a favor. Thank God for that grace today! Praise Him for the life He has blessed us all with. Life is good, but do you know what? God is better. Sending your one and only son to die for the entire world’s sin … are you kidding me? I couldn’t do that! I’d selfishly protect him from the atrocious torment that Christ endured. It just shows how much He loves us. Rest on that assurance today, and know you are never irrelevant to Him.
(If you battle with guilt from past sin, listen to Matthew West’s song “Grace Wins” below. Grace indeed does win every time!)