1.7 points, that’s what separated my one student from a D as his final grade in the course I was teaching this summer. This was the last class he needed to complete in order to graduate. Students pass the class with a D. After seeing the F in my online gradebook, he sent me an e-mail pleading for mercy…
This scenario is a common one. In 14 years as a college professor I have encountered it way too many times. 99% of the time, the F sticks.
This time, however, something I heard on Sunday’s sermon caused me to pause before I replied.
The pastor was talking about Joseph, Jacob’s beloved son, and the many trials he faced before he became number 2 in command in Egypt. I’ve always loved Joseph’s story, with its many twists and turns. I didn’t see this twist coming, though. Our pastor skillfully helped us to decipher the mystery of God’s love intertwined all throughout the Biblical narrative until we couldn’t help but sit in silence and contemplation. It was a simple message, nothing highly theological, but highly effective. I cannot duplicate his words, but those which stuck in my soul sounded something like this, God’s love is so abundant that it frees us to throw caution to the wind, take risks and love foolishly.
The last two words kept bouncing back and forth in my head, and it wasn’t until I was honest with myself that I realized why they continued their persisting tugging at my heart. The combination of words was particularly convicting to me because it hit me right in the middle of my selfishness and pride.
“What does he mean, love foolishly?”
“There’s no way we can love so unguardedly! We’ll be taken advantaged of!”
“I don’t want anybody taking advantage of me for being foolish. I don’t want to be the laughingstock!”
Yep, the words bothered me because, more often than not, my pride gets in the way of my love.
I don’t want people to think I am a fool. I want to be smart and witty and street savvy. I don’t want people thinking I am naïve. No, not me!
I’m so worried about what other people may or may not think of me that I forget to care about what God may think. I’m so concerned about being bright and right, and proud of my perceived self-sufficiency that I forget the source of all my success.
I forget that I am nothing without Him and that whatever much or little I have; He has given to me to do His work and bless His beloved.
I forget that God is way more than enough, and that no matter how much we seem to lose, we never really face true loss because in Him, we always enjoy overflowing abundance.
I forget that love is the mark of His children and compassion is their native language.
Before I replied to my student, I went back to my electronic gradebook and reviewed his individual grades. As I scrolled down the different assignments, I saw a few zeroes in some of the graded homework, but I also remembered that he would participate in class every time there was a chance. Needless to say, the thoughts about loving foolishly kept coming back to my mind as my laptop’s screen was glowing bluish light on my face.
1.7 points separated me from loving foolishly. The price would be my pride.
I cannot be sure what my student would do with his degree. I don’t know if he would turn out to be a good, productive citizen and child of God. I don’t know if he went back to his buddies and laughed at me and how foolish I was for falling for his pleading words. I have no control over what he does with the gift of 1.7 points. I am not responsible for his actions afterwards. I am only responsible for my own. I am only responsible for my choice to obey my pride or to take a first step toward loving foolishly.
I am not saying that I will now give points away to all my students who request them. All I’m saying is that I am going to try to not let my pride get in my way to love.