And then there was this student who owed me a late paper, a REALLY, REALLY late paper

I have a student who owes me a late paper. In fact, she might read this blog and know I’m writing about her. Of course, the truth of the matter is that I probably have several students at any given time who owe me late papers. But I’m thinking about one in particular at the moment. She had a legitimate reason for turning IT in late, and I gave her the OK to turn it in late. But time has run on and on and the paper has become later and later. I’ve sent her e-mails and spoke to her in passing in the hallway. I’ve even sent her messages by her friends to come by and see me about the paper, but now I’m hearing back from them that she is feeling uncomfortable and guilty about the paper being so late.

She’s avoiding coming to see me because she feels awkward about how late the paper is, yet the paper gets later and later as she continues to struggle with it. It appears to her that I would be a source of discomfort, so she avoids coming to see me. But here’s the ironic thing. I’m not really the source of discomfort: I’m the source of help. I have all the resources she needs to write the paper. I have all the expertise that she needs to draw on to write the paper. I’m the one who gave the assignment and could modify or even cancel it if I so choose. I’m not the source of discomfort; rather, I’m the source of her solution, even if she doesn’t avail herself of it. You see, I love my students. I really do. I’m not going to beat her up and shame her. (OK, some of you know me too well. Yes, I’m going to tease her a bit when she finally gets up the nerve to come to my office.) I’m also going to help her if she’ll only allow me. Her momentary discomfort of coming to my office will ultimately be replaced by relief as she completes the assignment and then moves on with her academic life without the late paper hanging over her head.

I’ve said before how I’ve learned a lot about God, my Heavenly Father, from being a parent. Likewise, I’ve learned from my experiences as a teacher and from my interactions with students. Our relationship with God is much the same as that of my student with me. We avoid God. We try to handle our own problems. We try to hide our sins. We avoid God because the closer we get to Him and His holiness, the more our failures, shortcomings, and sins are evident. We feel guilty, just as my student does because her paper is late. Just as she has been doing, we avoid the very source, not ultimately of our shame and guilt, but of our hope and help. Only God has the resources and power we need. In fact, He can even cancel our sins, blot them out, and forget them as if they never happened. But He can’t do that until we come to Him and accept His help.

Published by

Stephen Rizzo

I am a Christian who is flawed but forgiven. I am a father who is blessed beyond measure with two amazing children. I am an educator who is fortunate to get paid for doing what he loves. I am a musician who really needs to practice more.

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