Once upon a time, at some kind of informal get-together at which the wine flowed maybe just a bit too freely, my wife picked me up by the collar and dragged me home because the shouting match going on in the room had flamed into the out-of-control zone. It got loud--really loud. So did I. I'll never forget her demanding we leave.
To this day, I'd say it was an argument, not a fight. To this day, she'd roll her eyes.
I haven't a clue what a bunch of profs were fighting about that night years ago, but I know--I remember well--who was fighting with whom. It was me and him, that muscle-bound theology prof who loved nothing better than to fan flames he'd almost always start himself, maybe with a match, maybe with a Bic, maybe with a blow torch. He loved to provoke, loved a fight.
He was a masterful teacher who believed, I think, that every student should relive his own tortured boyhood past, so, often enough, he bullied 'em and beat on 'em unmercifully. Yet, he did it in a way that made them understand that he was good--at teaching. I know someone who flunked his class and still admits today--years later--that the guy's class was the best one he took that year at college.
He says, today, he's mellowed, and he has. He says, today, that he doesn't deliberately poke his finger in people's eyes. He says, today, he sidesteps fights instead of looking for 'em. He says, today, that after 15 years he never yet got in hot water with his new administration.
Human beings can change, of course. Not to believe that is to sentence oneself to a kind of spiritual death. We don't have to be who we've always been. Unlike leopards, we can change our spots.
All of that being said, he's still no marshmellow. Maybe there are no fists, but he's not put away that pointer finger. Nope.
Once upon a time, years ago, when the two of us were painting a house, he told me something I've never, ever forgotten, even probably used more than once in the nearly 1000 posts on this blog. "The story of the Bible is really quite simple," he said, paint brush in hand. "And it goes like this. We keep screwing up, and he keeps taking us back."
I wouldn't doubt for a minute that the theology prof learned that truth the hard way, time and time again.
This morning I'm thankful for such great lessons.