What if God decided to assess our spiritual performance by using nine-week grading periods?
Or, if the Trinity preferred, trimesters could be instituted, with some form of cumulative assessment at the end of each.
Either way, everybody knows when these terms come to a close. The rectangle yard of my desk usually serves as a harbinger. There, unmarked papers start multiplying like white bunnies, while those with red streaks huddle together next the computer, waiting to be placed in their cage.
Why must it take so long to stuff them inside?
And then a flood of e-mail from worried parents pours through my inbox. They complain of a string of zeros posted online and don’t want their children to sink through them. In desperation, they’re sorting through the stories that they’ve been hearing from their children.
And, for some reason, my students have turned cordial. Extremely cordial. They talk to me. They come to my desk — even without being asked.
One by one, they beseech me to check their grades. They crave the latest update, wanting to stay at least one step ahead of their parents. They need to know how to handle tonight’s questions at dinner.
But even if their grades are down, they still show their teeth when they talk to me.
“Mr. Kreider, is there anything I can do for extra credit?”
“I can’t play in the game tonight if my grade is still a D.”
“I just don’t understand why I have a C in this class, but I have all A’s and B’ in my other classes.”
“I know I did that assignment, Mr. Kreider. Yes, I totally remember turning it in. I put in on your desk. I know I did it.”
They’re looking for deals. They’re looking for understanding. What they’re looking for, really, is an academic form of communion.
Are we any different in our relationship with God?
Sometimes, as their teacher, I want to cast students into a lake of fire and brimstone as an eternal punishment. As I look down over their abysmal performance, justice demands that they suffer for their sins, right?
But sometimes I just want to wrap them in a blanket of grace, too.
Some end-of-term observations:
- Just like students, we become increasingly interested in God’s evaluation of our performance, as soon as we sense the end of something.
- Like parents, we grow increasingly worried about the performance of our loved ones, as soon as we see them approach the end of something.
- Like anyone, we begin spending more time with God, as soon as we experience a profound desperation of need.
- Finally, like Adam on his way out of the garden, we start pointing to all sorts of excuses.
Yet God holds the detailed accounting of the term. With a keen and a holy eye, He has observed the endless failures and the ongoing laziness. Every day.
And yet He didn’t wait with stern, disapproving eyes for us to slink toward His desk with a binder full of guilt and shame.
Instead, He sends His Son down the aisle to our desk. He wants to teach us the greatest lesson of all: We are loved. We are loved in spite of our performance. But this lesson takes more than cramming or memorization. It takes revelation.
And once we grasp this lesson in our hearts, without any cheating, we finally let go of our heavy binders and quickly raise our hands.
Because we have already been called.