No Promises, No Apologies

 

I work with a young man who has “no promises” tattooed on the outside of one forearm. On his opposite forearm in big black lettering he has “no apologies.”  Both arms bold, both meant to make a statement of this guys beliefs.  On one hand, or arm, this co-worker is correct.  He is almost Biblical is his ideology.  I mean the Scriptures do say to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  So it would follow if you make no promises you have nothing to break, you’re being true to your word, right?  But perhaps promises are not something any human being has a right to make in the first place. Maybe making promises is in fact something purely divine. For there is only one Who can make as many promises as He chooses and will never fail to perform or fulfill each and every one.

2 Corinthians 1:20
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

If we take the time to root ourselves in this truth than we know the strength and surety of the rock upon which we stand.  With this confidence we are then able to extend forgiveness to others.  For we know that it is humanly impossible for others to keep their promises.  It changes our expectations. This knowledge that only God is the keeper of promises and the fulfilled of our expectations.  I am not saying we have no standard of living and or have no expectations for others.  I am simply proposing that with those expectations and standards we leave room for human error.  Knowing in that in our futures we too will need the same grade we are extending right now.  For just as others are not perfect, neither are we.  So perhaps seeing ourselves rightly is the first step towards forgiving another, as well as accepting God’s grace for our own lives.

Grace is something I have been learning a lot about recently.  It seems to be the subject of the my holy classroom.  God is indeed the best of all teachers. In this class, I am currently reading What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey.  Mr. Yancey’s thoughts have me pondering forgiveness more than any other season of my life.  Especially as I look at why I may be harboring unforgivness in my own heart.  I believe unmet promises, and broken expectations are at the core of most human hurt. My own hurt.   A certain expectation or promise is set.  One or more is cracked and then a seed of unforgivness is planted.  We as the one offended then have to answer this question, ” to forgive or not to forgive?”  This is the question that holds the key to peace, contentment, and love.  Each day in a thousand little ways I have to answer this question.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, when I have to cover a co-workers laziness again, when I get over looked for a promotion, when my loved ones offend me, knowingly or unknowingly, when someone steals “my” parking space.  The list grows from the mundane to the inhumane.  Some have bitter betrayals to overcome, or heinous crimes that have been committed against them or their family.  The truth remains.  The only thing strong enough to bring freedom from pain and bondage is forgiveness.  For forgiveness is just another word for grace.

Grace is something My work place needs desperately.  I don’t believe the guy I work with is right in thinking no promises will equal no apologies.  Because the reality is with or without promises we have to ask for forgiveness almost every single day.  We are all human constantly entering into other people’s worlds. We are daily stepping on another’s toes, trampling their proverbial grass, and knocking their perfectly aligned “stuff” around.  Although we do all these things unwittingly, it is then up to us to simply say “sorry.”  And maybe it’s not for them, it’s for us.  To breed the kind of humility which enables us to accurately self asses ourselves.  To see that yesterday we trampled on someone’s grass, so today we are able to forgive the trampling of our own.  Because all unforgiveness really does is create fissures between us and others, even the ones we love.  But forgiveness, true forgiveness, divine forgiveness, builds bridges. Bridges over which we may cross and enter into territory likened to Heaven on Earth.

 

An Expression of Gratitude

I am a lover of things done well. No matter how small the task, if it is done well it is admirable. I think this love for the small things is why I love Chick-Fil-A. They do everything well. They are one of the only restaurants I know who place fresh flowers on every table, train their employees thoroughly, and have found a way to pass on their pleasant culture to every employee. For these reasons alone I would eat at their establishment, but their food is amazing too. Who doesn’t love waffle fries dipped in their signature sauce? And I can’t get their Polynesian sauce anywhere else.

So for this love of chicken, and black and white cow suits, I found myself at Chick-Fil-a’s grand opening in Branson, Missouri. I was not disappointed. All the things I love about chick-Fil-a had found their way to Branson. I ate two rounds of waffle fries and drank a large sweet tea to celebrate. But in the midst of my eating enjoyment, I ran into an old college professor. A man who has impacted my life in a way I struggle to express. Maybe his impact stems from the felt absence of true men in my life. Having all sisters, and a “laissez faire” father, I craved a male role model. I do believe this is why Dr. Hayden Head watered so many thirsty areas in my life.

I remember planning my semester class schedules and knowing whatever electives I had were going to be filled with his literature classes. I never worked so hard to honor and respect a professor in my life. I not only loved his class content, but knew that he was teaching me things I should treasure and ponder my whole life. I was sick one class and had taken some medicine that made me drowsy. I struggled the whole class not to doze off. After class I immediately explained my situation for fear that I had offended him. This is my admiration for him .

I am now, still part philosopher and lover of classic literature because of this man. He taught me how to ask questions and use all of the mind the good Lord gave me. He valued every opinion in his classroom. Effortlessly and kindly redirecting students who might have been off track, he engaged his students as equals. He encouraged them to write well, but to never lose their unique voice while rearranging their essays to abide by good writing standards.

Dr. Head always offered to pre-edit our papers before we turned them in. In a way there was no reason a student should ever fail as long as they asked for help. In a way it seemed too easy, but asking for help was part of the education I received. Learning to ask for help was a lesson I never really learned at home. I always feared rejection. Dr. Head was a safe person to ask for help, no matter the topic. Those editing sessions were like private tutoring sessions. His tutoring gave me a chance to not only learn, but to be affirmed by a man who I greatly admired. His presence, in and of tiler was healing. His patience, kindness, and mutual respect unlocked parts of my soul I didn’t even know existed. I would love to say I am a grammar expert now, but I cannot claim to be even close. I can, however, say I am a grammar aficionado and over all better human being for having sat under his gracious tutelage.

Heck, If it weren’t for his presence I wouldn’t be blogging with the hopes of someday writing a published work. In Chick-Fil-A yesterday, I was able to express a minutia of these sentiments to this man. As usual, he was gracious, humble, and slightly uncomfortable to receive such accolades. His wife whispered to me, “Thank you, sometimes he wonders if what he is doing is making a difference.” Well it made a world of difference to this soul, an eternal difference. As usual his humble reply was encouraging to me. His response reminded me of what I often wonder, does my life make a difference? Do my efforts count? In that moment I realized no matter who we are, no matter what difference we are making, we all need to be reminded from time to time lest we lose heart.

So today I challenge you to take time to think of people who have impacted you. Then take some time to thank them. Even if you think they know, chances are they don’t know. I was challenged yesterday to get my eyes off of myself and remember to think of others first. Especially the ones who have helped form my very soul with their iron clad words, soft gestures of kindness, and challenging lessons. So here’s to you Dr.Head. Thank you for the gift of your time and knowledge. I am eternally grateful. I hope one day, The Lord will project the depth of my emotion and gratitude for your life onto your own mind and heart, so you may see the depth of my sincerity. Until then, I hope this simple thank you will suffice.