From Knave to Sweetie in One Day

From Knave to Sweetie in One Day

This is a delicate essay to write, because I do not want to speak ill of anyone who might be recognized. Hence some of the generalities I must use from time to time.

It was the last semester of one of my graduate programs. Although I did not need the course in order to graduate, I signed up for it simply because I thought it would be good to learn the material. I was studying agriculture (agronomy is the more specific term). This was an advanced four-hour lab course in biochemistry, with two hours of lecture and eight hours of lab every week. Three of us were in the class. The other two needed it for graduation, but I didn’t. They informed me a few weeks into the semester that, had it not been required, they wouldn’t have taken the course: The prof had a reputation as a tyrant and, basically, as a jerk. I was in another department, and had never heard that.

But it was true. Even though he was rude and abusive to all three of us, the prof had it out for me in particular—my guess was that it was because I was a mere “aggie” or hayseed or whatever negative stereotype he might have imagined. No matter what I said, whether it was in response to a question from him, or it was a question I asked him, he would put me down. Nearly everything he said to me implied that I was stupid and basically had no business taking the course.

It would have been a terrible experience under any circumstances; but we had him for ten hours a week, between lectures and labs (although thankfully he was present only occasionally in the lab).

The class weighed me down. For two days out of every week, I had to trudge a quarter of a mile to that building and expose myself for up to five hours of insults and put-downs—a one-hour lecture followed by a four-hour lab. I was learning a lot, but at great cost. It got to the point where my feeling of being immersed in darkness occurred not only on the days when I had that class, but throughout the week.

About two-thirds of the way through the semester, I was trudging up to the third floor of my prof’s building, anticipating yet another emotional pummeling. Because it was between classes, there were scores of students in the hallways and on the stairs. I was climbing the stairs slowly because I dreaded the lecture hour. Out of the blue, the words inserted themselves sharply and unavoidably into my mind: “You’re a child of the King. Why do you put up with this?”

That was all. Nothing more. Just, “You’re a child of the King. Why do you put up with this?”

My response had to be swift, because I would be in the classroom in just a few seconds. I thought, “If that is God rather than my imagination, then it implies that I must be able somehow to do something about the emotional abuse.”

So I began praying silently, challenging any spiritual forces that made my prof so negative—or if it was just him and had nothing to do with spiritual forces, challenging him to be more of the child of God he was created to be. In my mind I said something like, “I am a child of the King. You have no right to attack me. You have no right to attack the other two students [by the way, they were both Christians]. In the name of Jesus, who is King of kings and Lord of lords, I place this entire class under the sovereignty of God. I proclaim that the shalom of Yahweh will preside over Professor ___  and over everything related to this class.” And by then I was at the tiny classroom, taking my place alongside the two friends I had made in the previous weeks. Of course, as is nearly always the case when I pray, I had no expectation that anything would be different.

Professor ___  arrived a couple of minutes late. After a brief greeting he turned to me and asked, “How are you doing with the class? Are you understanding everything? I hope I’m not going too fast. . .” I don’t recall his exact words, but he was clearly expressing concern for me, both in his words and his demeanor.

And that demeanor continued through the end of the semester. He was friendly, obviously concerned that we be able to understand the material. He fielded questions graciously and with clear, detailed answers. He emphasized that we should come to him with any questions, no matter how trivial. Never once did he put down any of us for anything. He offered to meet us outside of class if we needed for him to tutor us in anything.

I became eager to go to the class. In addition to being highly educational, it was engaging and enjoyable. Professor ___  was a totally changed man.

I thought back over my entire educational and work career up to that point, wondering if I might have effected similar changes in the various jerks I had studied under and worked for. Of course, as Aslan emphasizes, we are never given to know what might have been.

Even though God’s intervention enormously blessed me, I was most excited for the professor. I had no idea to what extent he was subjectively aware of the change in his personality, or if there had been some kind of encounter/experience that had led to his transformation. But I knew it must be unbelievably Life-giving to change from being a curmudgeon and overall jerk to being a gracious person. That’s got to be a lot more fun! And I was greatly encouraged to understand that anonymous prayers for other individuals CAN have enormous power in blessing them and drawing them closer to God’s kingdom.

I graduated that June, and never learned if the change in Professor ___  continued. I had no reason to believe it hadn’t.