Christianity, Recovery, Relationships, Spirituality


The Spring rollercoaster continues here in North Texas. The weatherman says to enjoy the almost summer-like temperatures and then brace for another visitor from the north. I’m following his suggestion. I’m spending my time this morning with my beautiful wife and all is well in the world…

Our twenty-something daughter lives with us while she’s finishing college. I’m glad we can assist her in her academic and career pursuits. Still, having grown children move back home has its own unique challenges. I always laugh when I hear parents talking about “when kid turns eighteen and moves out”. If they only knew…

Earlier, I had been making coffee and overheard the conversation in the living room between my daughter and my wife. I don’t want to share their business or bore you with the details but there was one thing that caught my attention. My daughter, the aspiring teacher, said, “in an ideal world there wouldn’t be any grades”. In an ideal world there wouldn’t be a lot of things. In an ideal world…

My views of an “ideal” world have changed since I was my daughter’s age. Some of the issues are still the same – justice, peace, economic and social inequality – but my perspective has changed. I’d like to think that comes with experience, wisdom, and age – but it has far more to do with the relationship I have with God than anything else I’ve done over the years.

In many ways, life has come full circle for me today. I recall being idealistic and, like our daughter, angry at the injustices and inequities suffered by so many in the world. Back then, I wanted to change the world. Today, I want to change my actions and let God change my heart. Consequently, I see the world differently.

It took me a long time to figure out the difference. Trying to control the means to manipulate my surroundings, however noble the ends, only brought frustration, cynicism, and apathy. Trying to cooperate with the will of the God of my understanding changes the means and brings me hope. The biggest difference between the youthful and the older idealist is who’s in control of the ends, the outcomes.

All that idealism talk got me thinking about grades – or the lack thereof. I understand they can often be used to define a person’s worth or to divide people into less-than or better-than. If that’s the case, then my daughter’s probably right. However, grades are often the things that spur us on to greater endeavors. Grace and grades are not mutually exclusive terms.

I’m not sure if Mr. Monninger my “favorite” teacher, but he was certainly the most “memorable”. He taught creative writing in my senior year of high school. One of our assignments was a short story. I waited until the last minute to complete it, knowing I’d turned in “A” work. When the papers were graded and passed out I was shocked to find an “F” written across the top. I stewed over the grade all through class. I knew I had turned in good work. I may not have been an “A” student in all my academics, but English (we called it Language Arts back then…) was my strength and I knew I’d turned in superior work. WHAT WAS THIS CRAP!???

I approached Mr. Monninger after the bell rang and the other students filed out. I demanded to know what the “F” was about. To my surprise, he agreed with me: I had written an “A” paper. The problem was that it wasn’t an “A” paper for me. He told me I was better than that and he wouldn’t accept less than my best. Then he said if I wanted to write what I was capable of, rather than just enough to get by, he would reconsider my grade.

I rewrote that story. I gave it my best and he changed my grade. He refused accept mediocre work – but more importantly, he refused to let me accept mediocrity. He wanted me to reach inside and pull the best out of me. I doubt he remembers that moment, or even me for that matter. I do! He taught me a very valuable lesson that day. I still remember…

I know I’m infinitely loved by the God of my understanding. I know that everything in my life is grace. I know that His acceptance of me isn’t based on “grades”. I also know He wants me to “have life and have it abundantly”. Sometimes that requires “grades”, experiences that make me reach inside and pull out the better self. He stretches me well beyond my comfort zone; not to earn His approval but to learn how to love others (and sometimes myself) better.

I don’t know if there are grades in an ideal world or not, but I’m grateful for a Teacher that believes in me – brings out the best in me. People tend to live up to what’s expected of them. Thank you, Mr. Monninger…


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