Some years ago I took an elective class in the seminary about anthropology. It was with a new professor who was engaging and interesting and easy to get along with. The material was very interesting, and I paid close attention in all the classes. I had a lot of ideas from the classes, they got me creatively thinking.
The problem was I didn’t read a thing for the class. Since it was an elective, and I didn’t even have time to read everything for my required courses, the reading for the class fell to the bottom of the list. But I could get away with that all semester because there were no quizzes or written papers or homework. The only assignment we had was a long written paper based on the readings, due at the end of the semester. In fact, the grade on that paper would be the grade for the whole course!
So, as the last weeks were approaching, I was stressing because I realized that I was not prepared at all to write the paper. It made most sense to me to just drop the course, because there was no way I could do any of the reading before the due date, and also write a paper worth anything. Why waste everyone’s time? So, I decided I would just lay the cards on the table with the professor and tell him I was going to drop the course.
So, after the next class, I ambled over to talk to the professor and tell him the situation. I just hadn’t read anything at all the whole semester, I said. I’m not prepared to write a paper based on the reading. I do, however, have some of my own ideas of what we talked about in the class. “I don’t think anyone’s read anything,” he chuckled. Don’t worry about it, write what you want about the topic you’re thinking about. Just do your best.
I felt relieved. I had some good ideas rattling around in my head from the classes, and I knew I could put something together on that. A big weight was lifted.
So I wrote the paper and handed it in. I got back an A on the paper and in the course. In fact, the ideas I wrote about were so intriguing to him that he wanted to expand them into some academic research at some point in the future. It was a triple relief: Not only did I get the relief of confronting the situation honestly and being forgiven, I also got an A in the course, and I also got the ideas out of my head, onto paper, and validated. It was the best course I took in the seminary!
I think that’s a little of what the “good thief” was experiencing on the cross. Completely unprepared to pass the final, he put his cards on the table with Jesus. And then, everything changed.
Not only was he going to be understood and forgiven for being unprepared, he was going to be in paradise that very day. Jesus was so impressed, that his words were going to be recorded and noted for generations, for billions of people to see and hear over centuries. He was going to paint a way that everyone can relate to, to inspire many people in a very ordinary situation of life, because he got what Jesus’ class was all about.
Life is filled with situations that we did not prepared for. We all miss the boat or slack in something, and then the test comes and we’re not prepared. Then, it’s a good time to take initiative and do some honest accounting. Put all your cards on the table before God, get everything off your chest, and get ready to accept the consequences. You’ll not only feel the relief of being forgiven, you’ll get raised up to the top.
That’s how you’ll make a difference with others.
Because that’s what Jesus is all about.
“Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43)