I think what’s missing in most “religious” writing is the beginning and middle. We hear the END, which is the lovely gem of truth gleaned from the experience, but we’re not privy to how the person actually reached such a point. Which is why I’m bringing up what happened yesterday. Maybe if I write about it, I’ll understand what was going on. What I’m feeling is that Jesus is probably a little exasperated with me at the moment.
Here goes: I’m taking a graduate class on the weekends, and yesterday I was paired with Gina to collaborate on a paper and presentation. First off, I don’t care much for group projects. I don’t have time to meet with people outside of class. I mean, my life isn’t busy enough already? Then the second (and real) reason: Gina is the LAST person I wanted to work with on anything. OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but still. We had already taken one class together, and I ended up having to help her several times with some very basic computer stuff that you’d think a graduate student would know. Especially one in this field, where it’s part of the job. When she showed up in this class too, I was thinking I’d keep my distance. I really didn’t want to be bothered. I’m just Jesus all over again, aren’t I? Yeah.
So this instructor paired the two of us up right off the bat, and my first thought was “Well, well, well, God, don’t YOU have the sense of humor today?!” The second was, “OK, looks like I’m going to end up doing this whole project by myself.” Which is a little ironic, since, as I said, I’d rather work by myself anyway.
Gina came over to sit at the computer next to me and we started. Or rather, we COULD have started, except that after fiddling with it a bit, she declared that computer didn’t work and she’d have to find another one. The thing about computers is that they work a lot better when they’re turned on. So after we cleared THAT little hurdle, she eventually was able to log on and, after many tries, find the site we were supposed to be on. I printed off some articles for the both of us to read and highlight so we could discuss them and synthesize the information.
I could go into a lot of detail here, but I don’t really want another blood-pressure spike. Suffice it to say that I was not in my happy place. I could feel my heart hardening against her, even though outwardly I was polite and “kind”, if one can be considered kind who is harboring violent thoughts. At the end, I asked her to email me her notes on the articles, I’d put them with mine, and we’d discuss them next week and decide how to present them. You would have thought I had asked her to jot down a doctoral dissertation. She looked at my email address as though she’d never seen such a thing. Now, that would have been the time to back off and show just the tiniest bit of compassion. Like accept the handwritten scribbling she pushed across the desk to me, sentences she had been copying furiously from the articles, – during the instructor’s lecture, no less – which was obviously the best she was capable of. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I just pretended not to notice her consternation, and breezed on out of class.
It’s really a lot easier to write about when it’s someone else who’s a jerk. But in this case I know I was the one. Even worse, at the time I felt full of righteous anger. As in, dang, Girl, how about taking a computer class? I even called and griped to another friend about how put out I was. I had every right to be pissed, and I fumed most of the day.
Trouble was, I had this tiny nagging feeling inside that Jesus would like to kick my butt.
Which he did. When I opened my Bible to read last night, guess where I landed. Yep. Matthew 7: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults–unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (The Message by Eugene Peterson)
Great. He WOULD have to bring that up!
How many times have I had to ask for help on the computer? How many times have I felt stupid because I didn’t know how to work a particular application? How many times have the guys at work patiently explained a new (or old!) program to me when I just didn’t quite get it?
So now, what to do? I’m thinking that he wants me to be kind to Gina and understand that kindness is a lot more essential in life than knowing which computer file to open. Who’d a guessed? Anyway, next Saturday will be different. I will pray to see Gina through the eyes of Jesus and treat her as he would. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to suggest she take a computer class, but it does mean I won’t be treating her with contempt. God, I’m really sorry. I totally screwed this one up. But thanks for being someone who gives second chances.