And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. – Colossians 3:15
I know I’d never get caught cheating on a college exam because I’d never be cheating. Sure, I’d faked illness in order to postpone the taking of a test; I’d begged for extra credit “because I suffer from really bad test anxiety;” I’d even skipped tests before in order to take a later make-up exam, but I had my principles. I’d never stoop to actually cheating.
That was before necessity made me inventive. It was my senior year. Actually I was beyond “senior” because I’d already completed enough semester hours to graduate and, with special permission, had even started taking graduate courses. The one small detail blocking my graduation was my non-completion of the required foreign language. And according to school policy, I needed two semesters of the second year of a foreign language. The first year was neither required nor counted as fulfilling the graduation criteria. So naturally, even though I’d not taken the first year of Spanish, the supposed easiest of all foreign languages, I registered for Spanish II.
I was lost. I struggled. I studied. I read. I was even tutored, but I was lost. The first semester my class attendance raised my grade to a “D.” Second semester Spanish was making more sense only because it would have been impossible to make less. For the mid-term test I decided I needed a little help and carried along a 3X5 note card of verb tenses for confidence. When the test started, I slipped my micro-print confidence card under my test paper for quick reference, just in case. But the test was going well. I wasn’t gliding through, but I was moving along with unexpected ease.
It was going so well, in fact, that I decided to ask a question and flagged down the professor as a he walked by my aisle. “This question is unclear to me,” I quarried. “Am I reading it wrong?” “Maybe so,” he responded in a whisper. “But if you’ll turn the paper over you’ll find it’s very similar to question eight on the front page.” Then, as he reached down and flipped over my test paper, my “confidence” notes floated to the floor. Looking down at me he quietly stated, “I don’t think you really need those.” “You’re right,” I responded as I quickly retrieved the notes and slid them into a book in my desk. Then he simply walked away, and nothing else was ever said.
At the time I was mostly embarrassed. Later I was scared. Then I realized what could had happened. I could have flunked the course. I wouldn’t have graduated. I wouldn’t have been accepted into graduate school. I wouldn’t have been able to continue the charted course of my education. Then I was really scared, but at the time, I was mostly embarrassed. I had always known that cheating was wrong; I had known that it didn’t fit into my personal value system. I felt betrayed by me.
Years later I am now aware that in that fluttering page of notes was the first step in discovering the secret of living a life of peace. It is to live within your own values. Peace, it seems, begins inside and is lived out, and if we are to be “peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) we must begin by making peace with ourselves.
Prayer: Let me be a peacemaker Lord. Let me begin with me. Amen.