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When I Forget About Grace

May 21, 2012

I work with teenagers.

I feel like I deserve a medal for that statement alone.

I spend my days with adolescents – their angst, their mood swings, their questionable judgment and their hoodies that haven’t been washed since the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

There is a lot of patience that goes into working with kids. A lot of love, a lot of joy, a lot of incredible surprises, but most days, it is patience and grace that enable us to survive one another. Most days.

There is a young man I’ve gotten to know quite well this year. He is a really good kid, but he’s going through a really difficult time. It’s a circumstance I can’t change for him, and a circumstance he’d do anything to forget on any given day. He’d like to pretend he’s just another kid, just another one of the guys, but the reality of his mom’s illness weighs heavily on his shoulders. I can see it in the crinkles around his eyes. See it in the small pauses he takes between the friendly banter. See it in the way he puts his head in his hands and takes a deep breath. I can see his struggle in the choices he makes, choices that he hopes will divert attention from all of his pain.

I see his pain everywhere. It’s there in everything he does and all the words he says. And most days, most days I am able to offer grace. Most days I can laugh through his knucklehead choices or backhanded compliments. Most days I can offer patience for the assignment that isn’t quite done or the way he distracts others in a study hall. Most days I can gently redirect and gently guide.

But today I forgot about grace.

Today I didn’t give this young man any wiggle room. Today he held the final straw in his hand, and dropped it in such a way that it broke the camel’s back. Today I was frustrated over a very small issue, and I chose to hold my ground and not give him an inch to move.

I forgot about grace.

I forgot that my only job is to show compassion when it is needed. I forgot that my only work is to lighten another neighbor’s load. I forgot that my agenda is not the most important thing, that my control is not always necessary, and that my way is perhaps not the best way there is. I forgot that the only thing I’m here to teach this young man, above anything else, is that grace is real and tangible and wholly his for the taking.

I watched his eyes hit the floor when I scolded him. I watched him wiggle his thumbs in embarrassment. I heard the “I’m sorry,” and I chose to ignore it. I was exhausted and I was worn down, and I chose the low road when I should have been driving on higher ground.

Forgive me for forgetting my place, young friend.

Forgive me for ignoring your pain.

Forgive me for forgetting the one thing God asked me to teach you.

Forgive me for forgetting grace.

I will do everything I can to not forget again.

She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world


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