I once had a student whose name rhymed with pill. That is easy to remember because there were more than a few days where I would rather swallow a horse-sized one than deal with the conflicts he brought to my classroom. The funny thing about Rhymes with Pill was that he was very smart (though spacey) and when asked, he could recite the classroom rules and expectations word for word. (Whether or not he followed those rules to the letter is another story for another time.) However, he rarely paid attention to the specific thing I was asking the class to do at a particular time. He figured that if he worked within the general guidelines of the basic rules of the class that he could ignore my spoken directions and he would be fine. Rhymes with Pill figured he could set his own guidelines when it came to specifics. This caused a lot of problems, particularly if the routine varied slightly from one day to the next, or if I introduced something new. Despite his confidence that he could figure everything out, he instead would often find himself doing the exact opposite of what the rest of the class was doing.
He did not know (nor was he capable of knowing) what the best decision would be for the entire class. He was not aware of particular requests or decisions made by other teachers, staff or myself. Yet day in and day out, he would do his own thing. Repeated conversations, consultations, and disciplines did not seem to make a difference. For whatever reason, he was wired to do his own thing. It has taken me over a year to realize this, but I am not unlike my funny student, Rhymes with Pill.
I know my black and white rules. The ten commandments, the greatest commandment, the marriage vows. I try my best to follow them. But I know that at the heart of things, it is not what my faith is about. Sometimes I am thoroughly confused, however. What am I supposed to do in these situations that are not solved in a Sunday School answer way? What do I do when things are just "fine." What do I do when there is this small, but loud and aching piece that knows, knows with great confidence, that there is MORE. There is more than what I am doing. I try to read a book for answers or talk to a wise friends. That may help for a while. But really, I need directions that are specific. I need clarity and meaning for me, for now.
I have, for a long, long time, let myself believe that everything is okay because I follow rules. Yet I have failed in one way. I have not listened. It is not one of the 10 commandments. "Thou shalt listen." It is just a given. When I break one of the Black & Whites, I far too often fill my own ears with the ringing of my own apologies, my weeping and gnashing of teeth. I am so busy making myself feel fully sorrowful, that I miss a chance to listen. My regret is not sincere, but it is pronounced, and pronounced loudly. Yet there is no change. Maybe repentance is not sobbing pleas, maybe it is quiet. Maybe it is listening.
Perhaps all I need to do is stop talking. Perhaps all I need to do is stop.