Undeserved Grace

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Core scripture“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 32).

Message: Two words have the distinct possibility of inciting a riot this year: MAP testing.  The kids practically screamed anarchy when they saw those dreaded words written on my schedule last Wednesday and Thursday.  It’s not that they can’t handle the test.  They are just burnt out!  After slugging their way through all the state assessments, their brains are fried.  I gave them my best Vince Lombardi pep talk—to no avail of course—and that first day of testing was almost laughable.  Whispers of a rebellion were in the making, and a few kids took it to a whole different level.

Third hour was a disaster.  Even with two paras patrolling the room alongside me, it wasn’t enough to calm the tidal wave of craziness that ensued.  Multiple kids were raising their hands that the program had not downloaded correctly to their iPads.  Four or five were already on laptops because their iPads were not charged.  Then you have the one or two that logged into the math section by mistake, making me have to restart their testing.  Five of the laptops were not sufficiently charged, three iPads booted kids from their testing, and to top it all off, I was giving free trips to the drinking fountain much thanks to Cough Fest 2017.  It was a nightmare!

Oh, I so wanted to dump that debacle on my team during 4th period.  Every square inch of my flesh was telling me to unload it all, and believe me, I did for a bit; however, Philippians 2:14 was echoing in my mind: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  I gritted my teeth and stopped.  My 5th hour would be different, I told myself.

Deep breaths.  DEEP breaths.

They flooded my room with the goofiness and craziness of lunch still coursing through their veins.  Five immediately went to the laptops.  Oh dear.  One kid’s fidget spinner shot off his hand and ricocheted off my book shelf like a boomerang gone awry.  And then I had to deal with two class clowns who decided to amp up their rebellion.

Class Clown One took control.  I was looking over his shoulder at his iPad as he was punching in his test code.  He found his name, scrolled down to find the right test, and pulled up the Math MAP test.  On purpose!

“Whoops!” he laughed aloud.  “Mr. Daniels, I accidentally clicked on math.”  The kid was smirking, attempting to hide a mischievous smile.

Deep breaths.  DEEP breaths.

I went over to my computer to restart his test, and that was when Class Clown Two stepped in.  He walked up to me, iPad in hand, with a big, goofy smile on his face.  Uh oh.

“Mr. Daniels, I think I clicked on the wrong test.  What does Primary Test mean?”

I looked at his screen and wanted to bang my head on the wall.  “It means you signed up for the grade school test, genius,” I rolled my eyes.

“My big fat fingers must have picked the wrong one!” he crowed loudly.

I’m gonna take your big fat fingers and … and …

Deep breaths.  DEEP breaths.

The class roared with laughter.  It became one of those moments when I just had to laugh myself.  Throwing my hands up in the air, I restarted both boys and began to check the screens again.  Class Clown One’s screen was up and ready to pick the right test.  But no.  He wasn’t ready yet.  He decided to try to pick Math—again!  I was right above him, watching his big fat finger punch the wrong test in slow motion.  When that Math MAP test started, I about blew a gasket.  Oh, how I wanted to rip that kid a new one!  He deserved it!  But somehow, someway, the Holy Spirit talked sense into me.

Deep breaths.  DEEP breaths.

The kid was smirking, pulling his shirt up to cover his mouth.  I knelt down next to him, close enough where he could probably smell my celery breath.

“We’re going to start you over AGAIN, and this time I am going to type in your code.”

Snatching his iPad, I restarted his test a third time and locked him into the right exam.  All tests were now confirmed, and the students began clicking away.  I had survived!  Both 6th and 7th hour ran like a well-oiled machine much thanks to our school librarian who fixed about six laptops.  By the time the bell rang at 3:10 pm, I was more than ready for that day to expire.  But it got me thinking … how would I feel if I were taking that Reading MAP test?  Had I ever rebelled when I was a kid back in school?  Probably so.  Man, it has been forever, but I began to understand on a deeper level what grace was.

Nobody is perfect.  We all sin.  That is where the cross comes in handy.  It was at the cross that Jesus asked God to forgive the Roman soldiers who crucified Him.  And we are to do the same.  To our students, our children at home, everyone.  When you rise above the temptation to spout words of wrath, you are showing others what grace is all about.  Be that love to your students!  I know it is anything but easy, but nobody ever said walking the Christian walk was easy.  What do you want your students’ last memories to be of you?  Would you rather them remember you spouting off in anger or extending undeserved grace?  The choice is yours.

It was five years ago last Sunday that I committed a sin that seemed to be unforgiveable.  David Crowder’s song “Forgiveness” speaks my feelings about that day so well when he sings, “I’m the one who held the nail/ it was cold between my fingertips.”  You see, every time we sin, we drive a nail through the wrists of Jesus Christ.  Every word of anger, every selfish desire is another crack of the whip to His back.  We don’t deserve His grace, but He gives it to us for free.

So I pray this prayer: “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice” (Psalm 51: 7-8).  That prayer reminds me how important it is to be gracious this time of year.  When every inch of your flesh craves that which is ungodly, be wiser.  Be bigger.  Extend the same grace that Jesus gave you on the cross, and watch it transform your classroom into a laboratory of God’s love.

Challenge: Look for ways you can extend grace to your students this week.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and remember what it is like to be a student during the last few weeks of school.  Modeling grace will help them better understand what grace truly is.

Song to bring it home: David Crowder’s “Forgiveness” has brought tears to my eyes recently.  Listen to the song for inspiration to forgive others, not to mention to forgive yourself of any transgressions.

Prayer: Father, I am a sinner.  Forgive me when I fall short of Your expectations, and allow me to be gracious to others.  Allow Your Holy Spirit to mold me to be more like You these last few weeks of school.  Amen.

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