“But the gracious gift is not like the offense. For if by the offense of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.”
Early in my teaching career, I taught Sabrina in her sophomore year. An exceptionally bright and savvy young girl, Sabrina could always be counted upon for clear insight into a cultural note in Spanish class or a beautifully accented response in the target language. But after the Christmas holidays, I noticed all of that changed into a sullen, withdrawn, and sometimes cynical attitude and perspective. Sabrina also became the first one to dart out of class at the bell, which brought our brief chats and witty banter to an abrupt halt. I was frustrated and confused, but didn’t want to pry if she didn’t want to talk. Still, I felt I needed to do something.After class one day, I asked a couple of her friends to stay behind so I could ask about her and see if they saw the same changes I did. When my Sabrina found out, she was very resentful and hurt, and I felt such shame about gathering information that way and breaking down the trust we had built so easily. She ended up transferring at the end of that year; we never spoke again. But during the next two years, my deep interest and investment in Sabrina was noticed by others at school, and more of my students began to seek my mentorship and guidance. They confided in me that my misstep with their classmate was not a reflection of me or my ability to care for my students, and they understood my reasons: she was unapproachable, and I was determined to find some way to reach her. It was an affirmation of my concern and consolation of my guilt.
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we are affirmed in the concept that we are not defined by our mistakes or missteps, for it is in those errors that we learn, heal, and are then able to give more of ourselves to those who seek our love and care. Jesus Christ sees this and bestows his grace upon us so that we may see this consolation, and be cared for ourselves in His love. And those students who saw me as more than their Spanish teacher received that grace as well, and found comfort in my journeying with them. “The gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflows to the many,” indeed. And if God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, can give us grace to restore and redeem, then why can’t we give that same grace to ourselves? Do we dare block that blessing? How do we find consolation in transgressions and turn them into benedictions?
- Where have you found learning and healing in your mistakes?
- How can you give yourself the grace that Christ offers?
Deena A. Sellers is the Director of Equity and Inclusion at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, AZ. Deena believes that building relationships and providing spaces where all feel they belong is essential to a student’s educational experience. In addition to serving on Brophy’s administration, she also sits as a Freshman Advisor and liaison to the Brophy Black Family Alliance. She is a 2018 recipient of the University of Chicago’s Outstanding Educator Award, and an inaugural recipient of the St. Josephine Bakhita Award for Faith and Service, presented by the Office of Black Ministry and the Archdiocese of New York. Deena holds a BA in French and Secondary Education from Chestnut Hill College (PA), an MA in French Literature from Hunter College in the City University of New York, and is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education at the University of San Francisco (CA).