Saturday, September 20, 2008

"I will change!" Part III

In what I did not expect to be one of the more depressing assignments of the semester, I just graded a set of intercity high-school-freshman quizzes. The quiz ended with a creative essay: if you were given a time-machine, where would you go with it, and what would you hope to accomplish? At their age, I would have chosen to go back to the middle ages so I could be a knight (I made it my habit to forget that women were not normally knights).

There were a few who would go forward to bring back a future technology and become rich, and even one idealist who would go forward to the upcoming election to tamper with the results in defense of “the greater good.” But the vast majority (probably 80%) of these intercity high-schoolers would go back to their own past to change mistakes they had made.

These kids are 14.
  • One girl wanted to go back to 1983 and convince her mom not to drop out of high school.
  • Several wanted to go back to specific classes in middle school and convince themselves to take their lives more seriously.
  • Many wanted to go back and spend time with family members before their deaths.
  • One girl wanted to go back to the day she had her ultrasound to look at the face of the boy she miscarried and tell him that she loved him.
It was a gut-wrenching window into the minds of these teenagers. As I read these depressing essays, excusing the atrocious grammar and grading their mere ability to meet the length requirement, I couldn’t shake the thought that these kids who wanted to erase their past mistakes most likely had to look forward to four years of repeating them in high school.

And I thought of myself in the mistakes I cannot change, crying out again and again that I will change but finding year after year that I haven’t. Redemption doesn’t always end up being a story of fixing our flaws; sometimes it is a story of carrying them through to the end. Many of those kids will not change in a way that makes their stories look less devastating on the outside or feel less painful to them on the inside.

Maybe what may change is the way we carry the flaws, the way we carry ourselves through our obstacle course of foibles. Maybe redemption is God helping us to carry the very things we long for him to remove. Maybe I and those teenagers whose quizzes I groaned through will learn to carry our flaws beautifully.

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