Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Quiz of Grace: As Iron Sharpens Iron

I've written before...and often...about my Wednesday evening classes at church, and what excellent discussions we have! It is truly the highlight of my week. However, I think I have yet to share with you all what goes on AFTER class, or at least what has been going on for at least the past few months.

One of my friends, Ellen, is the type that seems to listen better when she has something to do with her hands. She claims she is a fidgety person, and it is difficult for her to pay attention when she is sitting still. So a couple of years ago, she brought one of her Sudoku puzzle books to class and began working it during class. This was just what she needed to aid her in paying attention, by giving her something to do while listening.

This has been going on for almost the past two years. Then one fateful evening in the middle of October, our friend Jeff Eddie happened to sit down at the same table as Ellen. He was appalled at the idea that Ellen was working these puzzles and "not paying attention." He didn't believe her, when she claimed that it actually helped her listen better. She said, "Ask me anything." And the quiz was born.

This has now turned into an ordeal, where Jeff takes pages of notes during class with which to quiz Ellen, and Ellen just continues to do her Sudoku. She also continues to KILL his quizzes, doing better than I would/could do on most of them! It's rather entertaining, and there are a handful of about 5 or 6 of us besides Jeff and Ellen that gather to watch the quiz, and perhaps give our input when Jeff is being a little unreasonable with his questions.

"Unreasonable???" you might ask. Well, as Ellen puts it, "Jeff's a bit of a Pharisee, when it comes to administering the quiz, and in his letter-of-the-law quest, the point of what's really happening in class is definitely sacrificed...maybe, Jeff just needs to calm down and stop straining at gnats." Indeed, rather than quiz Ellen on the important topics of discussion, he makes it a point to ask random questions about things that are mentioned only in passing, such as:

--How old is Charlie? (17)
--Who commented first in class? (Warren)
--How long has Chuck been married? (22 years & 7 months...or almost 23 years...or 22.5 years...I'm not sure, really. Jeff has tried to claim each one of these as THE correct answer to this same question, to the exclusion of the others, on three separate occasions!)
--How many comments did Johnny make in class? (4)
--Who did Chuck say was his friend and colleague? (Keith Brenton)
--How much does Chuck's dog weigh? (22 lbs.)
--What 2007 technological invention was mentioned in the lesson? (IPhone) get the picture. This normally makes for an entertaining quiz, as Ellen is usually driven to raising her voice as she argues the fairness of the questions. (And who can blame her, really???) It's all in good fun, for the most part! But it became a little more heated than normal last week.

So this week, our pharisaical legalist comes in, as Ellen said, obviously having had a Road-to-Damascus experience of some sort. Before they begin, he proclaims that he is going to be unbelievably fair and reasonable...Ellen will probably get every question right. This is evidenced by the fact that he begins with, "Question Number One: Who taught class tonight???" He continues with this line of questioning, asking only relevant questions, accepting Ellen's efforts by giving her credit for partial answers, and even scribbling out a few questions that he thought might be too hard (before he even asked her!)

Such was last night's quiz. Rather than Jeff being legalistic, unfair, and maneuvering in an effort to trip Ellen up, he was "so full of grace it's disgusting." Rather than Ellen's blood pressure rising, with her becoming argumentative and overly-competitive, she calmly answered his questions, as we all shared some laughs.

One of our newer class members walked up in the middle of this last night and inquired as to what was going on. We briefly explained to him that Ellen was being quizzed on her listening ability in class. Then someone said, "Jeff is teaching Ellen patience." Ellen chimed in with, "And I am teaching Jeff grace."

Now, call me crazy, but I think there's a metaphor in there somewhere. I share this story with you, on the heels of my post about church being like your family, because, quite honestly, there are times when your family members are not your favorite people in the world. Any of your brothers/sisters in Christ ever treat you like they are a Pharisaical legalist? Any of your brothers/sisters in Christ ever become too competitive with you, arguing with you about things that shouldn't (and really don't) matter? Any of them ever seem as though they are out there with an agenda, out to get you, out to prove that they are right and you are wrong? Any of them ever lose their temper with you? Any of them ever make your blood pressure rise, so that you lose your temper with them???

The fact is that although we have our differences, and they may be plentiful, we are meant to be in this together, working together for the same goal. One person's weakness is another's strength, and when we remember that, we have much to learn from each other. As Solomon said, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Or, as the Teacher wrote just a few pages later,

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."


ellen said...

Hilarious and yet you still manage to make some deeper application to my hijinks with Jeffrey. I'm glad you're a part of the quiz.

Anonymous said...

I needed to read this tonight. Thanks.