19 years ago I was in grad school at the University of Texas. I was taking a senior level programming class for my engineering degree. I worked my buns off! It’s one of the hardest classes I’ve ever taken. After spending countless hours on programming assignments, I made a C.
That was devastating for me. One, because I didn’t make C’s. It was ok for other people to make C’s,but not me. That was a big blow to my identity. I had always been the smart girl. Smart girls don’t make C’s. Two, because I could lose my fellowship. Three, because I had worked so dog gone hard!
I remember telling my mom this devastating news. My mom suggested that I go talk with my professor and ask if I could redo the assignment that I had been unable to complete. Reluctantly, I took her advice. Now I would have to face my professor with my failure and ask for help.
My professor generously granted my request. I was so excited to have an opportunity to redeem myself! However, that was not to be. Instead, I was still unable to get the program to work.
My inadequacies were now glaring. Raw and open. What could I do now except admit that I wasn’t capable of doing this difficult work. That was hard because I prided myself in being able to learn anything.
After confessing my inadequacy to my professor, she did something surprising–something I’ll never forget. She gave me a B in spite of my being unable to complete the assignment. She gave me what my efforts were unable to produce.
I’ll be honest, I almost said no. I didn’t want her charity. I wanted to make it on my own. However, the alternative was to lose my fellowship and that meant possibly dropping out of school. So I sheepishly, accepted the generous offer from my professor.
I didn’t know it then, but I was given an even greater gift than just a B. I’ve learned so many lessons about life and the way God often works. I’ve learned that when we ask God for help, he may help in a way we don’t expect. At the time, I thought God had let me down because he didn’t enable me to get the program working. Yet, he did provide what I really wanted. The grade and the the ability to continue with my graduate program.
He taught me not to give up. To continue looking for a way to accomplish a task. Find a way to make it happen and pray, pray, pray!
He taught me that I had tied my identity to what I was able to achieve. That’s why I worked so hard. The Holy Spirit continues to free me of this lie. My identity comes from him. I’m valuable not because of anything I’ve done, but because he’s given me my value. Therefore, I can’t lose it!
The biggest lesson I learned was the lesson of grace. I had heard the word grace, but I really had no concept of it. It always sounded like grace was a license for people to sit back and do nothing. It seemed like grace was about being able to do what you want with no consequences. My work ethic and sense of justice wouldn’t go for that!
But this incident taught me about what grace is really about. It’s about us giving our very very best effort. It’s about us striving, and straining and stretching and still not measuring up. Grace intersects when we are desperate. When we realize that we have no other option but to ask for help. Grace is about us recognizing that we are needy, weak and inadequate. But it’s also about us recognizing that the God of the Universe has every resource available in limitless proportions. And He’s ready to help us, if we will SURRENDER to him. That means doing whatever he tells you to do–whether you like it or not! (Remember, you’ve tried it your way and your way didn’t work.)
Then help arrives in SUPERABUNDANT proportions! It floods our lives. It overflows so greatly that we are able to give generously to others.
We receive what our efforts could never produce!
My efforts could possibly have solved that program if I had much much more time—maybe. But my efforts would have never produced all of the lessons that came as a result of God showing up in that moment. Yes, I received the B and went on to receive my Masters Degree, but now I have an understanding of grace that permeates every part of my life. And now I get to share the overflow of that blessing with you. 🙂