My junior year in high school I had Chemistry 6th hour. I navigated through the entire year having absolutely no idea what the teacher was talking about…ever…
Somehow I was able to completely suspend understanding of that mysterious periodic table that loomed on one of the walls above me.
With diligent attention to labor-intense homework and labs and that wonderful thing known as “extra credit”; I hovered just a few fragile points above a B.
Until shortly around finals when he called all three classes in for a meeting after school.
As we sat around the packed room he began to accuse us of cheating. Red-faced and irate, he demanded an honest confession from every single one of us who had cheated on his tests.
Well I was born with a guilty conscience so was already squirming in my seat and racking my brain. But I had never looked over at another person’s test to copy an answer, so I was not interested in becoming the scapegoat for whoever this witch hunt had been set up to catch.
And then he got more specific about what his idea of cheating included.
Apparently listening to the 1st and 3rd hour students discuss what was on the test at lunch and then figuring out what the heck formula that problem called for as a refresher was cheating.
So now with this fact clarified, he again asked for a show of hands of anyone who had cheated.
And this time, Laura Lochner, now also red-faced, raised her hand and admitted her guilt.
The short end results of that fateful day were a lowered letter grade, the threat of being kicked out of National Honor Society and a visit to the guidance counselor to make sure I could drop the physics class I had signed up to take my senior year from the same teacher.
With great fervor, I studied for the final and took it the right way.
I still graduated with high honors, kept my place in the NHS and enjoyed an independent study in French the following year while my smarter friends did whatever physics-cians do.
I also developed a loathing for anything that smacks of cheating.
I know what it is to publicly declare my guilt.
That’s why you might find me on Sunday mornings with one hand raised during the music portion of our service.
Whenever one of the verses of a hymn involves things like … my sin, not in part but the whole, being nailed to the cross….or how I was once lost but now I’m found…. that same hand goes up.
This time with great relief.
Because I have a whole lot of other stuff that would have cost me a lot more than a grade and an NHS pin that got wiped off my slate at Calvary.
So I raise my hand to be counted as one whose debt has been paid by Jesus.
Because of the Cross, I am no longer what I was defined by.
And I never want to forget.