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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Too little, too late

Last week I had three one-page papers due in my Ethics class. I finished one of the three the night before. I had intended to wake up early to write the other two. When the alarm went off, I hastily hit the snooze and intentionally reset the alarm for an hour later. “I’ll do it later,” I said to myself. I got to work. Maybe I would be able to find a few minutes to churn something out… anything. Well, work was crazy busy from the moment I arrived until the moment I left to go to class. I ended up with only one of the three complete. I had spent the previous week pursuing other activities that I enjoyed more, and of course all of the obligatory engagements I had already made. “What’s one week? No big deal! I’ll turn them in a week late, take the letter-grade hit and go on with life.” Let’s be honest, a letter point difference on two assignments out of twenty has little impact on the overall grade. You’ll have to ignore the irony of actively choosing to NOT do my school work in favor of something else, and that work being papers for an ETHICS class…

So anyway, this week my professor stopped me in the hall.

Professor: “I only got one of your papers last week.”

Me: “Yeah, last week was a busy week,” I deflected, “This week I have the two I didn’t turn in last week, and also the three for this week.”

Professor: “That's good. But you can’t turn those two in.”

Me: …silence. Stunned I stood there with what must have looked like a deer-in-the-headlights expression as I suddenly recalled that he had told us he would not accept these assignments late.

Professor: “Last year I had a student who never turned anything in on time and keeping up with how much to deduct for each week became impossible. So, this year I don't allow anyone to turn in these assignments late.”

Me: “Fair enough! You reap what you sow,” I jested as I smiled sickly.

I walked away knowing there was nothing to do about that now. The effort I had spent to make up the previous week’s assignment was for naught. Instead of making a mid B on the assignment I ended up with a low F. Now, in the grand scheme of things that assignment will not affect my grade too much, so I’m not crying about it.

Later that night during his class another classmate tried to do what I had intended. He tried to turn in his assignment late. I smiled to myself at his futile efforts to convince the professor that he should take his assignment; after all, it was only a week late. Misery truly does love company. It loves to know that it is not alone, it loves to justify its actions knowing it wasn’t the only one… The professor stated at the outset of the semester that he would not take any of these assignments late. I had forgotten, really disregarded the rule, because at the time he gave us the rule I never intended to turn anything in late, therefore the rule would not affect me, therefore I had no need to remember it. (Interesting bit of self-righteous logic, eh?) However, as the semester progressed and things became more difficult, I started to stray and focus on things I would rather be doing rather than meeting the requirements previously set down. The rule I had previously set aside as "unlikely to affect me" became the source of my undoing.

How many people will stand before the throne of God when it is too late to accomplish that task given; to abide by those rules given while they still had the chance to follow them? How many will stand and plead their case in futility exclaiming all of their great efforts to make up for their failure to meet the requirements? How many people will disregard the laws of God as trivial thinking they have more time, only to realize, standing before the judge, that there is no going back, that what is done is done, or more rightly, what is not done shall remain undone? Just from this situation I know some inkling of the sensation of hopelessness that you feel in your heart, the feeling that you cannot make up lost time and meet the requirements of the past that you passed by for something more favorable. I cannot even begin to image the feeling of those who stand before the judgment seat of God only to realize that they are guilty and cannot go back. They can plead; they can cry “Mercy!” and none will be given. For, "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." (Heb 9:27)

God help us all.

Praise God that we have NOW to believe in Christ who justifies those who cannot and will not obey God. Praise God that we have NOW to do as we ought. Will we?

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