Some days you don’t want to go to bed because it means waking up the next morning. At that point, you know that the next day is going to be SOME day.
That was last night.
Then today actually started. I don’t need to go into all the details, but it included a fairly intense conversation with a parent before first period was even over. An hour into the school day, and I felt like throwing up and really just wanted to crawl into a dark hole and hide. I felt like I was splitting at the seams, and if you poked me too hard, all the stuffing would come out.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take much. During lunch period, in front of my high schoolers, a fellow teacher and dear friend asked a harmless question that sent me into defensive mode. The stuffing was leaking, and there was nothing I could do about it. There was tension. There were tears. I left the room.
Not only had I hurt her, but my poor high schoolers, who certainly don’t need any more drama and emotion in their lives, were treated to tension between two trusted teachers. Not okay. Not in any way okay. And it was all my fault– unquestionably my fault. I frantically scooped up the stuffing, grabbed a needle and thread, and got to work. Apologizing to my friend in front of the kids was the best way to patch up the situation, but it was, after all, a patch where something had been irreparably torn that should never have been, and I left school today feeling like the biggest waste of oxygen on the planet.
This happens, you see. I make mistakes. Even worse, I do things I know are wrong. And I keep doing them. Then I realize I’ve been doing something wrong, and I sit back and imagine God’s perspective. But, after all, I am human, and this projected dialogue with God is a dialogue with my humanized imagination of God. It usually goes something like this:
Erika: “So I did it again. I know it was wrong, I knew it was wrong when I was doing it, and I did it again.”
God: “All right. I love you anyway, but hey, girl, I want to USE you. I want you to be an important part of my story here, and you’ve got to get your act together if you want that. You want that, don’t you?”
Erika: “Of course I do!!!”
God: “All right, then. Get your act together!”
But God, as we’re clearly told, does not think the way man thinks and doesn’t see the way man sees. In fact, sometimes (usually, I find) His workings are so completely and totally opposite anything we would plan out that there is no way they cannot be “other,” that they cannot be divine in origin. I see this in salvation; no human who really takes sin and evil seriously would invent a system in which their sin gets completely paid by someone else. It’s just irresponsible; we want to feel the pain, we want to feel like we’re atoning for things. We want to earn our way, to do penance.
But oh no. God had another plan up His sleeve, one so “other” that it can’t help but be divine.
It’s easy to see it in salvation. It’s not so easy to see it in the nitty gritty stuff in life.
For example, I’ve been noticing a very odd, very “other” trend. Every time I do one of these things, every time I do something I know is wrong and then feel terribly sorry for it and beg for forgiveness, what I would expect is a setback. I would expect a probation period, a time during which God wants me to come closer to Him and learn some obedience before he gives me a new assignment in his Story. A time to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done.
But oh no.
Instead, I usually find that within twenty-four hours, I have been thrown an assignment of more-or-less epic spiritual proportions (usually involving a person in need) and have experienced victory in it.
This happens way too often for it to be a coincidence.
Back to tonight.
I think it’s safe to say that today was one of my biggest failures (out of many) that I’ve had in quite some time. I really, really blew it in front of a lot of people who mattered to me and who I’m something of an example to. If there was ever a time for me to get pulled out of the game for a while, thrown into the penalty box to ponder my ways, this would be the time.
Instead, four hours after leaving school in tears, I found myself on the back stairway of my church beside a fourth grade girl as she prayed the fourth-grade version of “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner” and became, as she called it, “God’s kid.”
You see, I’m beginning to understand something absolutely mind-blowing. God doesn’t always respond to my mistakes by telling me to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done. He knows– he knows very well– that I want to be a meaningful part of the Story. He also knows that I’m weak and have issues. So, instead of dangling a “someday” in front of me and telling me to get my act together, the conversation runs something like this:
Erika: “God, I blew it again. I really messed up. I did it even though I knew it was wrong. I’m going to go put myself in the corner and think about what I’ve done.”
God: “No! No! Get back in the game! I have something I want you to do RIGHT NOW!”
Erika: “But I’m not your person. Didn’t you hear? I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway.” (looks up from the corner) “Oh! Look! Something needs to be done!”
(Goes and does it)
Erika: (comes back with a grin) “That was so cool!” (remembers earlier failure, head droops) “Wait, I messed up. Why did you use me? I need to sit in the corner and think about what I’ve done!”
God: (just grins)
Erika: “WAIT. Hey, that’s not fair. You didn’t play by the rules. You’re supposed to wait until I get my act together before you use me, right? Right?”
God: (just grins)
Erika: “Are you trying to tell me that the whole sit-in-the-corner thing was my idea?”
God: “Maybe. Hey, if I wait till you get your act together, you’re not going to get anything done. That’s too discouraging. So I’ve figured out something better. How about you get back in the action and actually DO some of the cool stuff in my power, and remember how much you like it.”
Erika: (grudgingly) “That DOES sound a whole lot more motivating.”
God: “How about I help you get your act together, instead of you doing it on your own, and we do it WHILE we’re doing the cool stuff?”
Erika: (sigh of relief) “Now THAT sounds like something that could actually happen.”
Of course this is all coming out of my imagination. I’m not even trying to say that God actually says these words to me. But it is actually how He’s been working. No dangling-carrots. No penalty boxes. Just… grace. Grace, which is frighteningly, gorgeously “other.”
And that’s more than enough to get me through some days.