When You Deserve Detention

    I was in detention a lot for a small chunk of my high school years.  It was always for the same infraction: being late to first period.  Over and over again.  My first class was a loop.  I would try my hardest to be invisible as I slunk into the back desk of the room.  The teacher would continue on with class and at the end as I gathered my books, he would skate by my desk with a small square of paper and one simple word, “Detention.”  He pronounced it crisply, emphasizing the end of the word specifically as he breezed by.  No discussion, no eye contact, no questions.  

    Detention was often run by the principal of my small private school.  He was a kind man with an easy laugh and I respected him.  After a few repeat performances in his room of ragtag detainees I was called into his office.  I figured I was in for a lecture about being late and respect and interrupting the class and blah blah.  

    Instead, he started asking questions.  He spoke about his belief in me.  He gave me space to tell him that my Grandma, who was dying, had moved in with us and we were trying to care for her as a family.  My parents both had jobs to get to.  Many mornings, when we would all get ready to leave, my Grandma began throwing up from pain and meds and stress of the bustle of a busy house leaving her for a few hours.  The chaos and hard spaces of that would often be cause for a ten minute tardy from school.  Sometimes it was just exhaustion and draggy feet from a teenager who was trying to cope with all that plus a forty minute drive before the sun came up after a night of hearing Grandma cry and barf downstairs in intervals throughout the night.  I adored my Grandma.  The principal listened compassionately as I shared my love for my Grandma and my sadness.  

    My morning routine never involved a single detention after that.

    I have been thinking a lot about love lately and for some reason that story came to mind.  

    I don’t fault my teacher at all for the detentions. He was doing what he thought was right, holding down the rules. 

    I can however compare his tactic with the principal’s. When the principal stepped in, he erased my shame of being late with a few simple questions to increase his understanding. He lightened my load.  He spoke belief in who I was and who I could be instead of judgement over one area I was struggling with. And that reminded me very much of the path of love.

    Sometimes all we can see from our viewpoint is the way our brother or sister is breaking our rules, the speck in their eye, the one thing we don’t agree with (Matt 7:3).   

    Jesus never asked us to hold down the rule book over others for him, yet we often do just that, our hearts craving order and protection. We see all the infractions in others and we hand out quick cheap justice instead of putting on the work boots of love and seeking redemptive interactions. 

    However, he did command us to love each other and in doing that we actually uphold our part of the law(Rom 13:8-13).  It turns out that our half is the only side of the fence he cares about. He doesn’t seem to be interested when we point out the weeds in our neighbors yard. He is not in the business of being the spiritual HOA.  Sometimes the weeds we point out are actually flowers he’s tending but our view is too skewed to recognize the difference. We simply don’t hold the full picture from all the angles (1 Cor 13:12). Who are we to hand out detention when Jesus chose to wash feet, Judas included? Jesus did have the full story, and his response was still love, humility, servanthood (John 13:10-17).   

    So we surgically slice precious people out of community, we gently shame with our words, we try to control and conform others to our tiny images. We unfriend and over-inflate the value of our almighty opinion. We sit love on the sideline because we are way too busy managing the people around us to love them well and sacrificially. 

    And I get how we got here. The fabric of our love is threadbare and worn out from taking so many hits. Others are not loving to us. The world is crazy. People are stepping all over our last shred of ok. We are so tired. We are so anxious. Did I mention the world is crazy?

    We forget sometimes that when our tiny supply of love runs out, it is actually the love of Jesus expressed through our lives that has the power. It lives in our being and must be flexed like a muscle but it will never run out, burn up or fail its mission. Love never fails . At the end of the world, love remains. Love is the miraculous force that believes the very best and in believing, brings the best out of others.  It protects, hopes, and perseveres (1 Cor 13).   

    When the Bible says they will know we are Christians by our love it also implies the opposite (John 13:35). If we aren’t loving, are we truly Christians?  I have to sit in that one for a minute.   

    It takes love to try to see the facets in a person.  Love carries humility and curiosity to the table.  Humility opens our eyes to the things we don’t know and to our own personal deep need for grace.  Curiosity asks questions so that love may be deepened and light can be shown on potential misunderstanding.  These things working in tandem allow for unity and a bond of peace (Eph 4:2-3).  

      The Bible says that in the last days people’s love will grow cold (Matt 24:12-13).  The people he speaks of in here are believers.  That was shocking to me.  We are armored up, but not with the armor of the Lord.  We armor up against love because it just hurts too much.  We have been let down too much.  We think we know “their” story, their heart and that excuses the building of walls, the speaking of gossip, the walk away from redemption, the detour from the path of love.  Love, humility and curiosity are daily choices and they are hard ones.  They don’t protect our fragile egos or our sandcastle ideologies about life.  It’s much easier to hand out a detention slip and walk on our way than to sit and attempt to compassionately understand a complex call to love a complex child of God. 

    I have heard people argue that they don’t want to be loving because someone might take that as agreeing with their “wrong” behavior or viewpoint.  It does not cost us any of our moral integrity to love and be kind, humble and curious to those we don’t agree with, or we think are plain wrong.  Jesus loves us all the time right square in the middle of our wrongness and he hasn’t lost one bit of his integrity.  It is often the force of His great love that snaps us back into right relationship.  Imagine if we allowed that force into our wonky relationships so that we might walk in the love and unity that the Lord prayed over us.  

     When we only hand out judgements, people will often rise to meet our dim expectations of them.  If we are looking for reasons to judge someone we will always find them since we are ALL infinitely judge-able.  When we only hand out love of the Lord, people will often rise to meet it.  The love of Jesus is miraculously transformative, after all.  I certainly deserve detention but how beautiful it is when I get love, curiosity and humility instead.  Some might call that grace.    

    

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