How’s Your Record?

 

I don’t think there has been a time in my life where I learned more than I did during my three years of law school. I have a distinct memory of sitting with Kindra Poage and Lauren Downey as we totaled how many pages we read during our first semester. I was an English major in college and I remember that the page count was almost more than I read during my entire college career. The sheer volume of information we ingested and vomited out on our one-shot final exams is staggering to think about, even now. No doubt, I’ve blocked many of those memories from my mind, for purposes of self-preservation.

The learning in those years was not just the fundamentals of Contract law or the elements of negligence in Tort law. For starters. I got married between my first and second semesters of law school. Marriage, as we all know, is a continuous learning lab. We also were 10 hours away from anybody we knew very well. If you ever want to learn a lot about yourself, move 10 hours away from everybody you know. There’s nowhere to run. Let’s not forget that I was in law school. Blake was starting a job. We were fresh out of college. Every day was an adventure and lessons were learned every day – mostly the hard way.

Most of the knowledge I gained during that time came immediately. I learned the value of great friends like Clint and Sheridan Vaughn. I learned the value of fantastic church leadership through Ed Mosier. I learned the ins and outs of law and taxation and estate planning. I spent time in a real courtroom. I learned how speak and present arguments and I sharpened my persuasion skills. I learned how to love and how to fight. I learned how to manage my time. I learned how to own my spirituality. I learned how to fail. I learned how to buy a car. I learned how to be disappointed in people. I learned how to be inspired by people. So much learning was crammed into three years. I simply cannot quantify the growth in virtually every area of my life, my heart, and my brain during that time.

Other lessons learned during that time didn’t come so quickly. I have only recently been able to process that time in life and look at it from a different perspective. One situation has stuck in my brain since the day it happened. I don’t know if the right word is “haunt,” but it has come to me on several occasions, mostly in times of self-doubt.

Adjunct teachers in law school, like anywhere, can be a blessing or a curse. They can be a refreshing change of pace from the tenured set, or they can be out to prove how smart they are. They can be energetic and enlightening, or they can be woefully unprepared and lazy. They can be fantastic teachers, or they can be boring practitioners who had no place in the classroom. This teacher, I’d say was probably more of the latter. He was nice. I’m sure he was smart. He meant well…but he was an attorney, not a teacher. He had the heart of an attorney, not the heart of a teacher. In the rare case, you can have both, but he did not. (Insert “Bless His Heart” here.)  His specialty was VAGUENESS. He gave few parameters to his assignments and didn’t give details enough to guide you. (“Today’s assignment – Draft a Motion for Summary Judgment in a car accident case. Go.”)

I had no idea where I stood when I turned in an assignment. And that is where my story really begins.

This class had several smaller assignments and then the final exam. After receiving two “C” grades on two assignments (which is kind of okay in law school), I went to his office and asked him what I needed to do to be better. What do I need to do to get an A?  What can I do to improve? He met me with a question. He said, “Why are you not ok with that grade?”  I was befuddled. I stammered…. I shifted in my chair and then I spit out, “Well…because I’m not a C student. I’m an A student. I want to make an A. What do I have to do?”

Now, I don’t know if he was being a classic law school professor jerk or if he was trying to make a joke, but he looked at me and said the phrase that has haunted me since that day in the Fall of 2000. He said, “An A student, huh?  Have you ever heard of Bill Parcells?  Well Bill Parcells said what I’m going to say to you, Ms. Hull – YOU ARE WHAT YOUR RECORD SAYS YOU ARE.”  And he smiled. I felt the blood rushing to my face. I felt a lump rising in my throat. I was not going to cry in front of this self-important jerk. I smiled and said, “Well…. thanks anyway” and I left.

I walked straight out the back doors of the school and I sat in my car and cried. I didn’t cry over the C. I cried because I was mad. I was mad that he didn’t help me. I was mad because I made myself vulnerable to him and he wasn’t helpful. I was mad because I hadn’t thought of a snappy comeback. If you know me, you know that it takes a lot to make me mad. But if I’m extremely mad, I’m probably going to cry. It’s one of the things I hate about myself. I hate that I cry when I get mad. I absolutely hate it. I try not to do it, but I did it that day. (At least I didn’t cry in his office.)  I shouldn’t have cried at all, but it was my first semester in law school and I just didn’t want to be a C student.

I digress.

So, back to it – you are what your record says you are. What does that even mean?  That’s the lesson that has taken me almost 36 years to learn. It has been over 13 years since I heard it in “He who shall not be named” ’s office that day. I think I have only just recently processed it.

Guess what?  It’s true. In this world, you are what your record says you are. If you murder somebody when you are 16, you are and forever will be a murderer. You will never be able to vote. You will never be able to carry a gun. (that is, if you even get out of prison.)  You will forever be a murderer. If you make a mistake, chances are somebody, somewhere, will always remember you that way. If you had a child out of wedlock when you were a teenager, somebody somewhere will probably always think of you as a whore, a slut, a mistake-maker. No matter what you do, you are what your record says you are. IN THIS WORLD, YOU ARE WHAT YOUR RECORD SAYS YOU ARE.

What does your record say you are?  Are you an Adulterer?  Are you a Whore?  Are you a Liar?  Are you a Thief?  Are you a Murderer?  Are you an Addict?  A Loser?  Are you Unemployable?  Are you a Freak? Are you Mentally Ill?  Are you a Criminal? A Home Wrecker? A Bad Parent?  A Jerk?  An Alcoholic?  Are you Unreliable?  What does your record say that YOU ARE?  The reason I said it’s true is that to somebody, somewhere, it IS true. If you have done one thing, big or small, even ONE time, somebody out there will think that’s what you are…. for the rest of your life. Good or bad, in this world, it’s true.

For me and for my purposes let’s focus on the positives. To somebody, my record says that I’m a great friend. I’m a good attorney. I’m a good employee. I’m reliable. I’m faithful. I’m nice. I’m loyal. I’m caring. I’m smart. However, to somebody else out there, I’m a jerk. I’m a liar. I’m an awful friend. I’m unstable. I’m a loudmouth. I’m disrespectful. I am mean. I’m ………. Oh…I could go on all night.

So now you’re saying, “Gee thanks, Betsy. This is really depressing.”  Yeah, I know!  That’s why that phrase has haunted me this long. Why?  Because I believed it. I believed it was true.

I don’t believe it any more.

That’s right, Bill Parcells and Adjunct Who Shall Not Be Named…. your quote might apply to football, but it doesn’t apply to me. Why?  Because I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and I receive a renewing every day or every minute that I need it.  To Jesus, I have no record. My wrongs have been removed, by his blood, as far as the East is from the West. I have no record. Not only is my slate clean, but I am accepted. I am loved. I am HIS CHILD. He does not keep a record of these things. IN CHRIST JESUS, I AM NOT WHAT MY RECORD SAYS I AM. I AM WHAT JESUS SAYS I AM. I AM HIS CHILD. I AM REDEEMED, PRAISE JESUS!!!!!  (Can I get an AMEN????)

It has taken many years to get to this place. I am a person who operates under a ton of guilt. I feel guilt over things I do and things I don’t do. I constantly examine my choices. I constantly question my decisions and things I say. I feel guilt over decisions I made yesterday and decisions I made twenty years ago. I feel guilt over things I say and things I didn’t say. The statement that teacher made about me being what my record says I am has hung like a cloud over me. and it has whispered to me in my darkest times of self-loathing.

I’m letting it go of it today. I’m letting go of that statement. I’m never saying it to myself and I’m SURE not ever saying it to anybody else. I don’t hold any ill will toward that teacher. He was doing the best he could, given the situation. (For the “RECORD,” I pulled an A in his class and I’m still not sure how I did it. Our exams didn’t have our names on them, so it wasn’t from his pity. I’ll chalk it up to a miracle or an “I don’t really care” at this point.)

I want you all to know that you are not what your record says you are, at least to the people who matter and certainly not to THE ONE who matters the most. If you have been chained to your past, I encourage you to let it go. If you believe the lies that this world tells you, I want you to stop. The world is not our home. This world lies and tries to steal your joy. There is no future in the things of this world and you will only find true happiness in Jesus. No matter what you are or where you have been, you can clear your record and start new today – every day – as a new and clean creature before your Lord Jesus.

Your verdict is in. Your record, beloved, is clean.

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