Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram will know that I spent this past weekend at a writer’s conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What a fabulous city that is! I’m going to be honest here, my only knowledge of and experiences with Milwaukee involve the Cunninghams, Fonzie, and Laverne and Shirley. I had no idea what a delightful place it is with its Old World architecture, German restaurants, and biergartens (lots and lots of beer gardens, pubs, and bars). Of course, I did take some time to visit the Bronze Fonz while I was there, but my best and most personal experience had nothing to do with 70s television or even with the conference…
On Sunday morning, before heading to the airport, I awoke early and walked to the church of Old Saint Mary for the 7:15 Mass. The church was packed, a nice sight to see that early on a Sunday morning. After hearing the homily, I could see why. The priest was witty, friendly, and engaging. More important, his homily was so thought-provoking, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
Father Timothy Kitzk told the story of visiting his family years back when his older sister taught high school calculus. In order to allow his sister to complete her work and spend time with the family, Father Kitzk and his brother offered to help grade papers. His brother struggled with marking the answers wrong when the students seemed to have tried really hard but narrowly missed the answer. Father’s sister assured them that they had nothing to worry about because she graded on a curve. Father then reminded us that God grades on a curve. Think about that.
God grades on a curve.
He doesn’t look at one act, one sin, one bad decision. He looks at all of our hard work and grades us all on a curve. He knows that we can’t be perfect. More importantly, he knows that we can’t make the grade on our own. We need His help! We need Him to have mercy on us and grade us on a curve.
How profound is that? But even more than that, the homily got me thinking about how I grade people. While I certainly am not on par with God, what I say and think and do can matter greatly in the lives of the people I care about. We all know that a kind or harsh word from somebody, even an acquaintance, can have an effect on how we feel the rest of the day and often how we feel about ourselves. But the truth is, nobody is perfect. Everybody deserves to be graded on a curve!
Last night, I attended our parish penance service for Lent. I was reminded of the conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked the Lord, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18: 20-21). If Jesus expects us to forgive someone 77 times, how often do you think, in His perfection, God is willing to forgive us? When I look back over my mistakes in life, 77 seems like a drop in the bucket! But the bottom line is, we need to be more like God and let people keep trying, keep forging ahead, keep making mistakes, and love and forgive them anyway.
Now, don’t get me wrong. the point isn’t that someone should be allowed to hurt you over and over again. No, the point is that we need to have mercy on others. We need to look past what they’ve done and see them for who they are. Sometimes, yes, we will need to walk away, but even that can be a way to grade on a curve, perhaps for them, and perhaps, more so, for ourselves. Because when it comes right down to it, not giving people the benefit of the doubt, not showing mercy, not giving second chances–that might hurt the other person, but it actually ends up taking a toll on you, the person unwilling to forgive, to let things go, to grade on the curve. Sometimes the person you need to forgive, to give a break to, is yourself.
I’m going to say it right here and now. I am writing this for me as much as for you. I need to be reminded of these things as much as or more than anyone. I have a long way to go before I reach that big red 100% that God expects of me, but I’ll keep working at it every day, learning, studying, and growing in my journey. And I’m going to try to remember that everyone else is doing the same. I’m going to make my best effort to start grading everyone on a curve. And that includes the grade I give myself.
What I was writing about a year ago this week: The Family Table.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).