Jakson gets marks. Jakson is my five year old grandson. He is an absolute delight, one of the funniest and most fun kids I have ever been around. He is the one that led his entire preschool class in a rebellion last year and taught them to write their names on the wall of the classroom with school spaghetti. He is the one that told Santa at the mall, “I’m giving my letter to Jesus. He has more power.” Jakson keeps every conversation lively and keeps his parents on their toes. And he gets marks.
Marks are what you get in kindergarten when your behavior is less than satisfactory. Talk after the teacher says be quiet and you get a mark. Get out of line on your way to recess and that’s a mark. Knock Nick’s noggin off after he calls you a name and you get a mark, maybe two. And Jakson has had more than his share of marks.
One mark is not a great day. Two marks is pretty bad. Three marks and the whole school penal system is up in arms. Jakson’s record is five. He came home the other day with three marks in his little daily agenda book. At the top of the book it says the goal is no more than two marks so I said, “That’s not too bad Jakson. You were just one mark over.” To which Jon-Mical (who has never had a mark) replied, “PoppyC, he got three marks TODAY. The goal is no more than two marks in a WEEK.” Oh.
Look, I’m not against the mark system and I’m not saying that Jakson hasn’t been deserving of a few marks. I can tell you from personal experience he comes from a long line of mark getters. (I’m talking about Doris, of course.) Where I do take umbrage is when we let the marks define who we are. Jakson gets marks. He is not A mark. He is not even a mark getter. He is a great kid, loved by Jesus and by his PoppyC; full of life and energy with a little spit and vinegar thrown in. He has a huge heart, and infectious smile, a story ready to tell. And he gets a few marks now and then. What’s the big deal!
Sometimes, if we are not careful, we measure ourselves and others by the marks. We establish an acceptable rule of conduct. We outline a code of satisfactory behavior. We might even draw a picture of perfection. And we say to others, and to ourselves, if you don’t live up to that, you get a mark. And if you get a mark you are less than. You are flawed in some way. You are a mark getter.
Today I read Genesis 39 and I applauded Joseph because he ran from Potiphar’s wife and he didn’t get a mark. I believe we should all, “resist the devil and He will flee from you.” (James 4:7) or “avoid the very appearance of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:22) I believe we are called to be “a holy and peculiar people.” (I Peter 2:9 KJV) By the way, most of us are better at the peculiar part than the holy part. I am all in favor of no marks. But I so easily fall into the trap of being a mark counter and even worse, a judger of marks. My mark is not as bad as your mark. His mark is really awful and he has a lot of them. Marks become the criteria by which we assign value and worth to the children of God.
Two quick illustrations. Acts 15 the church is divided because of marks. The gentiles are being saved and they are not circumcised, “Oh, my goodness. That is a mark.” And the body of believers that Jesus said would be known by their love (John 13:35) is instead caught up in calling each other out, comparing scars and counting marks. The funny thing is that Paul stands up against mark counting and a few verses later he and Barnabas get into it over John MARK. (See what I did there?) Mark counting only divides and destroys us. We are far better off focusing on the loving and letting God take care of the marks.
The second illustration is from our psalm today, Psalm 39. Honestly, it is a sad, downcast, despairing psalm. “I will muzzle my mouth, oh Lord.” “Show me how fleeting life is.” “Remove your scourge from me.” “Look away from me that I might enjoy life again.” That psalm has all the marks of someone who is overcome by his or her own marks. Man, I’ve been there, so consumed with shame and guilt, so overwhelmed by the number and the gravity of my many, many marks that all I could see when I looked in the mirror was one big mark. It’s an awful place to be. And it is not God’s place for you.
Listen, you are not the sum total of your marks. You are not even marked up when God looks at you. You are a precious, positive, perfect child of God. He “loves you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3) He has removed you marks “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12) And He has made you a “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) You have a clean slate, a fresh page, a full pardon. You are without marks. WooHoo! Me and Jakson love that!
So, go out and do good. Stay away from the bad stuff. Do your best today to stay in line and not talk during quiet time. But when you mess up, and you will, know that you have a God that loves you and doesn’t see you through your marks. He sees you as His beloved child (or grandchild) who is so much fun to be with. He is crazy about you. He carries your picture in His wallet. He loves you, marks and all. And if that is true, and it is, He wants you to love others and love yourself in the same way.
Have a great day. Don’t worry about those marks. As for me and Jakson, we are going to write our names on the wall with spaghetti!