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Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Last year around this time I wrote three Christmas stories (scroll down). This year, I will do something different, and write about three things I’m aware of this Christmas Season. And the first of these is Grace.

I tend to write my school papers at the last minute, and anyone who’s ever lived with me will tell you that’s an understatement. But I once wrote a paper at the absolute last minute, that is, in the couple of hours I had between my first class of the day and the class it was due in. It wasn’t the world’s worse paper, but certainly wasn’t up to my usual standards. It was too short, the argument was poor, the writing was far from my normal quality, and I hadn’t spent nearly enough time on it. But I turned it in. And it was from this paper that I learned what is perhaps the best lesson I’ve had in college.

I got an ‘A’ on the paper.

I was excepting a ‘C’, or maybe a ‘B’ if my professor was being nice. But not an ‘A’. I’d written several papers for this professor before, so she knew what I was capable of. So to receive an ‘A’ on such a poorly written paper was a shock. And I felt bad about it. I’d put almost no effort and the minimal amount of time into my paper. I didn’t deserve to get an ‘A’ on it. So I did what no sane student would ever do: I went to see my professor and tried to argue down my grade.

I told her how little time I’d spent on it, pointed out all the flaws, explained that there was no way on earth this paper deserved an ‘A’. I reminded her of the quality of my other papers, and showed how this one fell short of that standard. But she refused to change the grade, and told me that just as she wouldn’t let a student argue for a higher grade, she wouldn’t let me argue for a lower one (though I think she was a bit amused by it).

As I turned to leave her office, my professor had one more thing to say to me. “Emma,” she said, “Learn to live with grace”.

Learn to live with grace. How often I forget that’s what I do everyday. Every time I pray, every time I call myself a Christian, I am living with grace. Yet I so rarely remember that. How easily I accept and live with what Christ did for me, and how hard I struggle with an underserved grade! What a backwards way of doing things. I wonder if it’s because grace, God’s Grace, is so huge, so all-encompassing, that if I were to live every moment in awareness of it, I would be overwhelmed. And so, living with grace, in the context of my day-to-day life comes easier than living with grace in the smaller moments. But it is these moments, the underserved grade, the surprise gift, the unlooked for praise, that bring me back into my awareness of the great Grace I have already received, and continue to receive each day.
Though my heart refuses
And my mind resists,
Though it seems my very being
Reviles at what is being asked—

Though I cannot be humble
And I swell with pride,
Though society says I am wrong,
This is my vow today—

I will not, not I say,
Refuse grace.

Let my pride burn
Where I belong.
Let me not forget
What I deserve.

I will not, not I say,
Refuse grace.

I will let the door be held open.
I will take what is offered.
I will accept what is freely give.
I will remember this is not about me.

I will not, not I say,
Refuse grace.


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