What I tell my students the day after kicking them out of class for behavior issues and before welcoming them back is that today is a new day. I explain that yesterday’s issue, whatever it was, is in the past and today is a clean slate. I tell them not to bring yesterday’s issue back to my classroom, that I’ve already forgotten about the conflict and that I want them to try again, try their very best, and we’re going to have a great day.
This pep talk is partly for them and partly for me. Because I want them to feel welcome and comfortable in my class, but also because I need to remind myself that we’re starting over. Both of us. I’m extending them grace even if I really don’t want to. Even if yesterday they called me a bitch or made a big scene about leaving and slammed my door unnecessarily hard. Things that absolutely drive me crazy.
Not that I would ever let them know that. Rule number one of teaching: never let them know they’re under your skin. I can stay eerily calm in tense situations, pretend that bad words don’t shock me and that threatening me isn’t just really funny. I can break up a fight in the hallway and then walk back into class nonchalantly, continuing a grammar lesson like nothing happened. It’s a practiced skill, people.
But those little pep talks to my misbehaving, rebellious students before walking them back into my classroom have taught me so much about grace. Because sometimes I don’t want to tell a kid in my nicest voice that I’m glad they’re back in class, that I love having them in my room, and that I want them there.
BECAUSE SOMETIMES I DON’T.
I want them to be anywhere but my classroom. I don’t want to look at them, I don’t want to have to deal with them, I want to ignore them. But my job isn’t about what I want. It’s about giving kids a really great education and making them feel good about their education and their school experience. So I fake it and we move on.
Recently, I realized that that’s my job as a Christian as well: extending grace when I don’t feel like it. Yes, God loves it when we do it with a cheerful heart and all that crap, but sometimes I have to extend grace just because I’m told to and I might have to pretend I’m happy about it when I’m really not.
I have to extend grace, I have to forgive, because it’s the cross I picked up when I took on the name of Jesus. And He said it would be hard and I was like “sure, I bet there will be bad days and bad situations, but we’ll get through it.” And yes, there are bad days and bad situations, but sometimes its the little things, like forgiving and grace and turning the other cheek that feel bigger, that feel consuming and impossible.
So sometimes I am graceful only because I’m trying to be obedient and not because I like you. Sorry, that’s ugly, but it’s true.
The good news is though, the more I extend grace even while fighting it, even when pretending, the easier it gets. I feel myself doing it with less struggle, with less grumbling.
It’s like with my students. Sometimes I still have to pretend I’m glad to see them when I really just want them to go away. But the more I tell myself I’m glad to see them, the more I really believe it.
The more I practice grace, the more readily it pours out and the less fake it feels.
So maybe I’m telling you that grace is a fake-it-until-you-make-it thing. It’s not pretty and it’s probably not super encouraging, but we have to start somewhere. So for me, I’m starting where I fight the most–forgiving others–and practicing, practicing, practicing until it feels less like work and more like joy. With the hope of one day being so full of grace that others look at me and only see Jesus. They don’t see a flawed, unforgiving, hurtful Mary, but a Christ-follower that gives grace because He first gave it to me.
Grace: fake it until you make it, guys.