Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Making the grade.

I've spent the past few weeks chipping away at report cards.
Mhmm, it's that time again. The school countdown is on and we are on our final sprint to the finish. The kids are wrapping up their summative units and I'm calculating averages and plugging in marks for the final report.
Level 1, 2, 3 & 4 - Percentages - Strengths and Weaknesses - Next Steps.
I've been weighing the scales for each student, each subject - And in case you were wondering, they are all top-notch!
My kids rock.

But can I be honest for a minute?
All this talk about final grades has got me thinking about my own 'life report'.
Blame it on my grading craze as we reach the end of the school year, I often think of getting to heaven like waiting for a report card.
It may sound silly to you, but sometimes that's what I associate my 'service' here on earth to come down to. A list of strengths, weaknesses and grades. The fruits of the Spirit, along with faith and deeds are the 'subject areas'. There will be comments in the side column about where I could have done better, and potentially some notes about some exemplary deeds.
Hopefully this will all be broken down to a passing grade. A sticker would be bonus.

So what do I need to do to make the cut? And what kind of things do I have to do to achieve above the average?
Well, back in the school context, I always tell my kids to check the rubric. Take a look at what expectations are outlined, and where you aim to fall within them. There are different strands of achievement within each assignment. Keep a close eye on the marking scheme, follow it accordingly, and you'll be guaranteed a solid grade at the end.

Okay, now where is my rubric for the other report? Unfortunately, it's not very legit.
Why? Because I make it up myself. I use comparisons based on where I stand with other people. I rank myself based on the 'good' things I have done. I accredit myself or dock marks depending on the thoughts and actions I've made throughout the day. It's my way of assessing my own performance - ensuring that I'm on track.

Um. I think I've made my point pretty clear...

Over the past few weeks I feel like I have been stumbling after some simple truths. Truths that I would like to think I would have nailed down a long time ago. We're going back to the basics here people.
Back to the core of what Jesus was talking about.
A life rooted in love and in relationship with our Maker.
A life free from a 'list'.

A conversation, some truth from Scripture, a book chapter, and some song lyrics have been meshing into an overarching theme which has been tilting my perspective lately...
Convictions about the thought processes going through my head.
I feel like I've been trying to break my life purpose down to an equation:
If I follow these laws, and do this type of work, with this type of attitude, for this many hours, with these certain people, with these kinds of ideas - then I've hit the mark. Cha-ching. Done.
Just put life into compartments. A formula for being 'good' or 'righteous' or 'exemplary'. Follow these simple steps, and you too can 'arrive'.

HowEVER, the list of dos and don'ts crashes and burns when compared to a verse like this:
Yet we know that a person is made right with God not by following the law, but by trusting in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith Christ Jesus, that we might be made right with God because we trusted in Christ. It is not because we followed the law, because no one can be made right with God by following the law... It was the law that put me to death, and I died to the law so that I can now live for God.
Galatians 2:16-19

There it is in black and white. Die to the laws. Trust in Christ.
That rubric I was referring to earlier is shredded. Non-existent.
Paul makes it very clear that if I am a slave to the 'checklist' or the 'right way', I'm living in vain.
God strips away the expectations and gives me Himself instead.
Now there is freedom.
Freedom to pursue peace and love and joy and give of myself without concern about saving up for a finale. Jesus already paid it.

I heard someone talk this week about the way love should be.
Love should be about unity. About seeking out the people who can give nothing back and serving them the most. About giving of oneself unconditionally.
This love is raw and painful and other-centered. It's against every grain in us, but if we let go then we allow ourselves to be used by the One who can.
I yearn to love like that. Above anything else, I believe that's what my purpose on this earth is about.
And yet when push comes to shove, I find myself weighing my options and tweaking the system and looking for shortcuts that I can justify. I go right back to where I started. As soon as I think I'm on track, I check my rearview and see the familiar look of a dead end.

So why bother? It's a never ending struggle, so why try at all?
I found comfort in a simple quote this week that urges me to keep on.

I am not who I should be,
I am not who I could be,
But I am not who I was.

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. Just because I read about it and write about it and talk about it doesn't mean I can apply for mastery. The more I try, the more I fail - Kind of like a one step forward two steps back kind of life. And yet glory be to God for his mercy and grace and undying love. A love that saves. A love that overcomes. A love that goes beyond my attempts. A love that justifies even me.
I want to live in this love and keep trying everyday to keep becoming. I find comfort that each and every time, I fall right back into the arms of my Father.
May His love break me and redeem me and change me until I stumble into His presence and am forever made new.

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