Posted by: LakeIris | August 6, 2011

Absolution

A couple of days ago, one of my students and her mum came to chat with me in the moments before the bell rang. It turns out my student had borrowed one of my books and took it home to read. She left it outside and well…the dog chewed it up. (Can you believe it? It was by far the closest thing to ‘the dog ate my homework’ I’ve heard yet.) She felt so horrible and they went so far as to go online and find another copy on ebay to replace it. You see, this book was one that I’d had since childhood (Anne’s House of Dreams) and they thought (correctly) that this had made it particularly valuable to me.

Now, I used to love, and still love, these books from my childhood. But they cost me about $3 each back then, and the pages are yellowing and coming apart at the spine. They were and are well-loved, but if I was that precious about them, I certainly wouldn’t make them available to my students to read. But I believe books are meant to be read and reread and if they eventually fall apart, that’s a beautiful thing. I was so touched by how much this student cared about me and my book and how she did what she could to remedy the situation.

What struck me the most about the situation, however, was its parallels to something that happened when I was in fifth grade. The feelings of guilt and needing to make things right were very much the same. Only in my case, the situation was completely my fault (unlike my student who, although she shouldn’t have left the book outside, was really the object of unfortunate circumstances). My teacher would occasionally give out Hershey’s kisses for treats or rewards, and one day, finding myself completely alone in the classroom, I took a couple from her stash and ate them. (Certainly sounds like the beginning signs of an addiction, doesn’t it?) That night, my mom found me in my bed, sobbing, guilt-stricken. We decided that I’d buy a bag of the treats out of my own money to replace the ones I’d taken.

Here’s the clincher, though. I wrote a note of apology and left the bag of chocolate with the note in her mailbox in the office. It either didn’t occur to me to apologize in person, or I didn’t have the guts to face her. She never mentioned it to me (probably rightly assuming that it would embarrass me even further) but it means I never experienced words of forgiveness or absolution. Her actions spoke that to me – she never treated me any differently, so I’m pretty sure she never thought less of me. But I’ll never know for sure.

So I looked my student in the eye, told her I knew it wasn’t her fault, that I really appreciated her apology and taking the time to find a replacement book so close to the original. May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I pray that this experience will teach us both just a little bit more about the value of confession, making things right, reconciliation, forgiveness and absolution.

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