I have just completed my 4th year of the ThM program (minus internship duties through August). I also just completed my first year of Hebrew and let me tell you this second semester was no cake walk. If you saw some of my Facebook statuses you would know the struggles that led me to liken my dealings with Hebrew to a bad marriage. There were fights, misunderstandings, one-way communication, periods of rejection, elevated emotions and yelling. I loved going through Jonah this past semester but the mechanics of those crazy verbs nearly drove me crazy. In the midst of it all, we also had a word study assignment to address the meaning of the verb, translated “to grieve” in Genesis 6:6. This basically entailed identifying everywhere else in the OT that verb or it’s cognate was used. I pulled up a list of 15 or so. Simple, right? After all, I had done these in my Greek exegesis classes as part of 20 page single space exegetical papers, that included writing a commentary, working out textual critical issues and validation problems. What was a little few verse word study then?
For whatever reason, every time I sat down to complete this assignment, I experienced some major mental blocks. It got to the point where I knew I would have to turn it in late. The prof had told me no problem. And still the “blocks” continued. Given the difficulty I was already having with the mechanics of Hebrew, I got to the point where I just decided I would take a zero and a hit on my grade whether than continue with this dance of frustration. The second to the last week of class, when asking about a make-up quiz I had missed because I was sick, she then said very calmly “and you do have a word study assignment coming, right?” What? Did my ears deceive me? I was getting a second chance. How could I not do the assignment now.
Ok, pause. I think anyone who has spent any amount of time around bible-based teaching has heard countless illustrations like this of grace, receiving something we don’t deserve (or at least I hope so!). But let’s keep going. Even after this second chance I still kept struggling with this assignment every time I sat down to do it. What on earth was going on? This was not really rocket science and have certainly worked through far more complicated assignments on various topics. Up until the end of the very last week I could turn it in, I struggled.
Finally, by Thursday of finals week, it came together. I took off work early, spent a few hours in the library and pulled it together. The flow at the end actually produced a pretty decent paper. Whew! At that point, I was uncertain if the professor would accept it and I was prepared for refusal. After all, it seemed like I flubbed the second chance. To my surprise, she was very accommodating and I turned it in ON THE LAST DAY.
What struck me about this whole situation was not that I had been given so much of a chance, which clearly I did not deserve. But it struck me that had my classmates discovered that I was given this opportunity, some might not be too happy about it. After all, they had turned their assignments in on time. They complied and did what they were supposed to do. Why should I receive the same consideration for an evaluation for my grade as they had received? That probably seems most unfair.
It occurred to me, that this is very similar to the problem we would have with understanding grace for those who struggle with serious sin and whose sanctification process might look like an elongated version of my struggle with this word study assignment. When we check off our compliance list, sins we either don’t do anymore or have maybe ever struggled with, it might be difficult to understand why that other Christian doesn’t get it or experiences some sin struggles that we think Christians should not have.
And let’s face it. There are some sins that are believed to be out of the purview of struggle – sexual immorality, same-sex attraction, addiction, etc. When we don’t accept this as reality, it can put us in the position of being like that disgruntled classmate. We refuse to accept that the ones who struggle with such sin are deserving of the same grace we have received, because we have convinced ourselves we have complied with the requirements (meaning we don’t do sin x, y or z).
But the reality is that there are some sins that are so deeply ingrained into a person’s psyche or experience, that a serious struggle is inevitable. It would be nice if when everyone came to Christ, the struggle discontinues. Anyone reading this knows that is not true. So why then can we not accommodate the person for whom there are some serious sin issues and elongated processes? The Holy Spirit’s work in a genuine believer may not be on our timetable of how fast we think things should be working. But for whom this is true, God is still at work in them both to work and will for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). For the one who struggles far harder or longer than we think they should, they do receive the same grace.
So rather than being angry or insisting that because one did not comply with the requirement according to an established time table, perhaps we can learn that some just need more time than others because for whatever reason, there are some more serious struggles.