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.

Be Like Marvin

Early this morning, I was meditating on my Sunday school lesson for the day. It focuses on two sad Christmas gifts. One is the gift not received, the other the gift not offered.

The first is like the Gospel rejected, which is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Cor. 1:18) “who ignore so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3). This is sad. Imagine a gift, bought and paid for, sitting under the tree as the intended recipient rejects it, leaving it unopened. That’s pretty sad. 

But the second is, to me, even sadder, the gift that is bought and paid for but never offered.

I never met my Granddaddy Rizzo. He passed a few years before I was born. But as I hear stories of him, I feel I know him because I have seen his character traits that come through in those stories exhibited in my dad, Aunt Susie, and Uncle Allen. There are lots of these anecdotes about his life that I have filed away in my mind, but about a year ago I learned a bit more about one of them. 

Just about everyone who talks about my grandfather says things about his jovial nature and how nice he was, but for most of his life he wasn’t a Christian. Then shortly before he passed he had a conversation with my Maw-maw’s brother Ralph Creel. Uncle Ralph was a minister, and I’m sure he had shared the Gospel with my grandfather. During one of their last visits together, my grandfather shared, “Ralph, I’ve met someone since I saw you last.” My uncle inquired who and the response was “Jesus.” My grandfather passed shortly after that conversation.

For years, I assumed it was my uncle’s and Maw-maw’s witness that brought Granddaddy to Christ. And I’m sure it was, but I never really knew the details of his friendship with Marvin Burns until last year. (If you attend church with me, Marvin is Wayne’s father and Rita’s father-in-law.) 

Marvin was a minister. He and my grandfather were friends, so my grandfather often chauffeured him to his speaking engagements. On these trips I’m sure they talked about kids and motorcycles and all kinds of things. But at each church service my grandfather heard Marvin offering him the gift of salvation through Jesus in his sermon and saw him living the gift as they rode along together. 

But with my lesson topic in mind, I began to ponder what if Marvin had never offered his friendship. Or what if he didn’t want to offend my grandfather? Or what if he felt religion is a personal matter? Or what if he for however many reasons never offered the gift of Christ’s love to my granddaddy? But he did, and sometime in 1955 or 56 my grandfather accepted “the” Christmas gift because someone offered it to him. 

So first, let me say if you have thus far left the gift of the love of Jesus and salvation through him under the tree, rejected and unopened, well, don’t. Just don’t. That’s just rude… and so sad and foolish. It is “the indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15) that was put there for you. It is a costly gift, one you could never afford on your own. Fortunately, “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8), free for the receiving, purchased just for you. 

And if you have received this amazing gift, why aren’t you sharing it? Get busy and be like Marvin!