Being a human is complicated. Being in relationship with one another? Even more complicated. I have a favorite professor from seminary who also terrifies me a little bit! It's complex, but it's real. I'll never forget walking into her class for the first time with lots of anticipation. She was tough. This is what I heard over and over and over again. A few other friends were in this class and we planned on celebrating #NoTearsTuesdays when we made it through classes without crying. All of this had been thought out even before we'd gone through the syllabus with her!

Something changed though during that reading of the syllabus. She explained that she knew she had a reputation but that she was a follower of Jesus and she was filled with grace. There would always, always, always be an opportunity to try again in her class. That being said, she had expectations because she loves the church, and as she said, "the church doesn't need any more bad preachers." As the weeks went on, my friends and I were relieved to find that EVERY Tuesday was a #NoTearsTuesday for us. This didn't mean things weren't hard, but we were learning and the respect we had for our professor, and her for us, was mutual.

At the end of the semester, I was still a little frightened of this professor but knew that I had grown as a preacher and as a student in her course. I decided to sign up for Advanced Preaching with her the next year. In this class, we'd preach a sermon every single week. I figured if I could do this and get through with her, I could preach in front of anyone.

Throughout the semester, I continued to be challenged and continued to grow in her class until about three-quarters into the semester when I hit a roadblock. A loved one experienced a significant mental health crisis and I was the one closest to them, trying to support them as they put the pieces back together. The Monday after this major moment, I had nothing. I had nothing to say in preaching class. All of me had been given in supporting this loved one. Exhausted, I walked to my professor's office and shared with her what was going on and that no matter how hard I had tried, I just had no words.

She looked at me and said, "We are going to pray for your loved one now, and then you are going to go home, get some rest, and not worry one bit about this sermon." This professor who held us to the highest standards again offered the most significant grace. I am and will be forever grateful for the lessons I learned from her and the grace she offered me. Humanity is complicated and so is the world, and yet in all of that complexity, there is so much to be grateful for. This week we'll reflect on Isaiah 12 and honor that which brings us joy and fills us with life, keeping us singing songs of gratitude.

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