The Greatest Lesson I Ever Learned…

Like many young people college was a time of experimentation, exploration, and discovery.  I found myself one day classified as a college freshman when only days earlier I was content having absolutely no purpose or direction in my life.  To this day I’m not sure how I graduated from high school having not attended most of the last two months of school.  Maybe it was decided to move me on and allow my poor influence the opportunity to effect a new group of lucky people.

Anyway, somehow I found myself in college with little understanding of why I was there or what I was supposed to do.  How my mom managed to get this college to accept me with my credentials was a feat of epic proportions.  I mean how particular could this college be.  Like Groucho Marx once said, “Any club that would have me as a member… I don’t want to be a part of it.”

So here I am sitting in class feeling completely overwhelmed by the whole experience.  I soon learn the college I am attending is a Christian college.  A small detail that somehow is never mentioned to me earlier.  When I ask other students what a Christian is they are only too excited to tell me in lengthy, emotional detail.  What kind of mess have I gotten myself into this time?  I’m an obvious outsider noted by the excessive length of my hair and the two outfits I own alternated each day.  My sleeping in on Sunday’s soon puts me on every religion major’s radar.  Somebody help me!

One day I have an awareness that something is amiss with my college experience.  Something just didn’t make sense that brought me to the point of utter confusion.  I looked at the other students in my class and studied them hard.  My time for this activity was plentiful as I never bothered to listen as the professor spoke.  I note the other students have short well coiffed hair.  I also notice most wear suits to class and the balance wore a shirt and tie.  Even the girls seem to dress like they worked in a bank.  They all seemed so much older and more sophisticated.  My best thinking tells me this must be the look of a Christian, complete with a briefcase.

Today was the day..I would finally participate in class…I would ask a question.  As I sat there in my sleeveless tee shirt, surfer shorts and flip flops I raised my hand to provide understanding and make my world right again.  The professor seemed shocked to see my hand reaching towards the ceiling and allowed me to ask my question with great trepidation.   I asked, “Dude, what class is this?” (dude was a word that found its way into most sentences those days.)  The class of lookalikes stared at me in disbelief wondering why this infidel sat among them and now he even had the nerve to speak.

I remember the look of compassion in the professors eyes, for the first time I saw this man for the kind individual he was not just the guy who talked all the time.  He said in the most patient manner, “what class do you think this is?”  I said “freshman psychology.”  Funny sounds burst forth from members of the class as they were let in on my stupidity.  “Son,” the prof said, “this is senior level Pastoral Counseling, the class you are looking for is located next door.”  “So that’s why I have no idea what you’ve been talking about,” I mumbled.  The kindly professor asked me to meet with him after the class was over to which I reluctantly agreed.

He started the conversation, “Son, you have a real problem. It’s much too late in the semester to switch classes.”  I answered with typical brilliance “Bummer man.”  He told me,  “Today I am going to teach you a lesson that you may remember for some time.”  I looked at him quizzically.  “We are going to make a deal together, just you and me. Today I’m going to teach you about grace. What I will do for you is give you a grace grade of D for this class. All you have to do is show up everyday and sit still and not sleep.  You need not take any quizzes or tests and you don’t have to do any homework. How does that sound?” 

Now I have never been much of a student.  Even when I tried hard reaching the level of a D grade was quite a lot of work.  Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth his offer was readily accepted.  Imagine my good luck.  Did I ever pull one over on this guy.

As the weeks went on I held up my end of the bargain.  I dutifully sat in my seat and tried to give each class my complete attention.  Towards the end of the semester I once again decided to ask a question.  This time when the professor called upon me there was no reservation, no reluctance, just joy.  He was delighted when I inquired about something that was said and added meaningful matter to the existing conversation.  He looked at me like a proud father.  His acceptance of me gave me a feeling of warmth, almost like I was appreciated and cared for.  Something I never forgot.

As promised, when grades came out I was graced with a D for that class.  Something I didn’t deserve or earn.  He gave me something I never could provide myself.  Dignity and self-respect.  Little did he know that generous gesture led me to question my purpose in life and seek a faith to provide comfort and meaning for my life.  I learned the meaning and value of grace.  Grace exists on a dimension beyond words for it’s experienced a time of real need.  Grace once encountered finds itself struggling for release to others who find themselves in need.  Such small efforts have the potential for lifetime effectiveness.  What a tremendous gift to share with others.  That wonderful little man gave me a chance at life by simply sharing God’s excellent grace.  Where ever you are I thank you.

When it comes to grace..give freely and often.  You never know the depth of impact one kind action may have on another.

I guess I didn’t pull one over on him after all!

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