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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not a grade, but grace!

Correction is not something we enjoy, but we definitely benefit from it when it is embraced and does the work it was intended to do.  When some of my teachers used to hand back papers with red marks on them indicating a wrong answer or improper spelling of a word, the expectation was for me to "correct" the error and return the paper for reconsideration. The teachers who actually allowed me to make the corrections on my work, returning it for reconsideration of the understanding I now possessed related to what I had previously done incorrectly held a certain place of respect in my mind.  Why?  They allowed me to correct what I did wrong - in essence, they gave me a chance to prove I could actually learn from my mistake!  I like to view correction as a means of learning from mistakes - not as a punishment or some form of "penalty" for what it is I have done.  The truth is I make a sufficient number of mistakes each day - if it were not for the ability to "correct" those mistakes along the way, I don't think many relationships would have lasted, nor would progress have been made in the projects I undertook!  Correction is simply a chance to set right what was once wrong.  When we begin to see it this way, we might just embrace it a little easier.

Correct a worthless bragger, and all you will get are insults and injuries. Any bragger you correct will only hate you. But if you correct someone who has common sense, you will be loved. If you have good sense, instruction will help you to have even better sense. And if you live right, education will help you to know even more. (Proverbs 9:7-9 CEV)

Why is it we see correction as "difficult" or "unpleasant"?  It may be because of those other teachers we had in life who never gave us the chance to "correct" our work.  Once the paper was turned in, it stayed as it was.  In essence, those teachers gave us the chance to prove ourselves in the initial work we did - not in the ability of our mind to comprehend the correction which was necessary to ensure we understood how to produce the right answers with each subsequent attempt in life.  Now, lest I get all the teachers in an uproar here, let me just say this - learning is compromised of both trial and error.  We try and sometimes we err.  We try again and sometimes we get it correct, but not always because we understand how we actually got it correct.  When we try again and again, consistently getting it correct in all subsequent attempts, the teachers will indeed say we have "learned well".  Why? The ability to correct what it was we did not fully comprehend in the first place led to us fully incorporating the principles which would produce the "right results" consistently.

God isn't much different - he gives us the chance to correct our choices until we come to a place of consistency in our lives.  We call this chance for correction "grace".  We call this repetition of testing "growth".  Grace and growth go hand-in-hand.  Without one, the other would simply not occur!  There are different places in life where we come to the place of growth - sometimes certain places afford better learning opportunities, while others simply make it a little more uncomfortable or difficult.  For example, when we are publicly reprimanded for a specific behavior, it is a little more difficult to embrace the growth opportunity.  When we are taken aside, given a little redirection, and encouraged to try it again, the results are different, aren't they?  Why?  We thrive best in an environment of correction which respects that we didn't purposefully set out to do something poorly in the first place!  Most of us would readily agree - we didn't just wake up today determined to do things "wrong" - we just found ourselves presented with opportunities to make wise choices and we made something other than wise ones.  

God uses our good sense - he gives us the chance to see for ourselves the error, developing in us the desire to correct the error so we don't fall into it again.  Those teachers I had who let me correct my work were really more focused on me learning to pay attention to the work I did in the first place.  You may think I would have counted on the ability to correct the work since they actually gave me this latitude.  Yet, in time I became more focused on doing the work well the first time so I didn't need to make the corrections.  God kind of does the same thing with us - he counts on us using our common sense to guide our actions the next time.  What does common sense have to do with us growing?  It helps us incorporate the learning we had from the failure.  If we hit our thumb with the hammer the first time we try to drive a nail into a piece of wood, we may fear it will happen again.  We could stop using nails and hammers, instead converting over to using a screw and screwdriver.  The job could probably get done, but a whole lot more effort is put into screwing the screw into the wood!  Our common sense would tell us to try the nail again, just being a little more cautious about the location of our thumb in reference to the head of the hammer!

Don't view God's correction as punitive - but as purposeful.  His correction is designed for our growth.  He doesn't just make a bunch of "red marks" on our life and hand it back to us. He points out areas where we have opportunities to think through our actions so we produce the right responses time and time again.  When God "grades" our life's experiences, he does so in the spirit of correction - affording us the "grace" to try again.  No lesson is ever learned by giving "red marks" alone - it is when we correct those "red marks" that we learn from them!  Just sayin!