80% written in red …

Quietly, she approached my desk and inquired about her quiz grade. I perused the papers in front of me and found hers.

“You made a 76.”

Her distress was apparent, burying her head in the palms of her hands. Normally, a 76 wouldn’t warrant such a response from this student, but today was different. When I asked her as to the reason behind her tears, she quietly responded, “My momma told me she was going to give me a whippin’ if I got anything lower than an 80.”

A smile formed across my heart; not because I was happy about her grade or her distress but rather because I know her precious momma and just how liberally the word “whippin’” gets thrown around down here in the South. I don’t think her momma would have whipped her for 76, but the threat was enough to spark a reaction in my student’s heart. I leaned over my desk and whispered to her, “What grade would spare you a whippin’?”

“An 80.”

I reached for my red pen, marked out the 76 and replaced it with an 80. Our eyes locked, and we shared a tender moment as grace rained down to replace shame. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of joy – being able to erase what’s earned and, instead, to replace it with what’s free. I was reminded, once again, of the trust I’ve been given this year—to live my life wide-open before these young lives and to set the stage for, what I hope to be, futures lived with Jesus and with a rich understanding about his love, grace, and unmerited favor.

This moment arrives to my heart, too, as fresh grace—a red pen held in the hand of the Master Teacher who is willing to erase my whippin’ and, instead, grant me my reprieve. When my dignity (and my behind) is held in the hands of the Master, I can always count on grace. Not that I press the issue of my “76s”, serve up my “less” when I could do better; that would cheapen the gift. But on those days when a 76 is all I have to give, well, I can trust my Teacher to cover the rest of it, be it four points or more.

I don’t know if my student will remember this day in years to come, but I hope that she does … not for my sake but for hers. That somewhere down the road when she’s tempted to think that her good isn’t good enough (that a whippin’s coming because she’s failed to meet some standard) she’ll think upon today and remember that she’s worth more than what she deserves.

She’s worth God’s Son – a cross, some nails, a grave, and all hell – all because he loves her and has called her enough.

The red pen is in his hands, and he has changed her grade. He’s changed mine as well.

Grace. It looks good in red. It feels even better. As always …

Peace (and grace … and freely flowing red pens) for the journey,

8 Responses to 80% written in red …

  1. Happy to be the first to comment here, though I haven’t been in blogland for a couple years now. Oh my goodness such an amazing analogy and a reminder that we can teach God’s grace as we share some. This is beautiful beyond words. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thank you, Jacquelyn, for commenting. Today’s event has run all over and into my heart. God’s timing is perfect, and it was, for me, the lift my spirit needed.

  2. Oh my word! What a post! Most assuredly, one of your best! Grace! Beautiful, wonderful, undeserved grace! I can think on many days when Jesus took His red marker and crossed out my 76 and gave me an 80. Praise His Holy name!!

  3. “Grace, grace, God’s grace, Grace that is greater than all my sin.” (And all my 76%’s!)
    I may be singing that chorus all day, with the same tear-filled eyes…not because of my lack, but overwhelmed by His lavish grace and love.
    Beautiful Elaine…this writing…and His love poured out through you,

  4. This one will stay in my heart for a long time Elaine. Grace… life changing and how many times has he erased the mark I deserved and extended that grace to me. I AM that little girl, we all are… wonderful words and what a precious encouragement to your heart and ours.

  5. Elaine, a beautiful story, and I think this student will remember this for the rest of her life. For I have a similar story, and it has never left me. One day in 6th grade, I returned to school after a many-day absence for the flu. I arrived to find that a science test was being given. A test that I did not know about, had not studied for, and had been absent for almost all of the information. My teacher told me to take the test anyway. The next day I was handed a paper with a big, red “D” on it. With tears in my eyes, and much fear, I took my paper to my teacher and sobbingly explained why I did so poorly, how ashamed I was to score so low, and could I please have a second chance. Meanwhile, the teacher had my test in hand, and calmly handed it back to me and said, “I don’t know why you’d want to take this test again. Looks like you did pretty good on it.” He had crossed out the “D” and in its place was a nice big “A”.

    You see, all these years later, I remember. I remember the grace extended to me when I didn’t deserve it. And believe me, the greater lesson about my relationship with Jesus has never escaped me either.

    Might I just use this story to encourage you, and to applaud you for the wonderful thing you did for this child. For what you did was way bigger than a test score. It was an act of love, an act that showed undeserved grace – and I do believe she will remember it always.

    God is and will continue to use you mightily with the children He has entrusted to you.

    Bless you, Elaine.

  6. What a beautiful thing you did for your student, Elaine. And what a perfect picture of the grace God gives us each and every day. Beautiful indeed. Blessings to you this week, my friend!

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