The grace of substitutes

“I’m the class bookworm,” he said to me, his blue eyes meeting mine over the book cart.

“Every class needs one,” I quipped back.

“Yup, and I’m it.” We chatted for a few minutes about the series he had just finished, what he might read next, etc., before he turned to go find some new books, and I turned my attention to something else.

He returned a little later, carrying the books he had just borrowed. I asked if he had read them already. He said yes, and added that he had gotten 100% on the comprehension quizzes. Good job, I said, and he went off happily to find some new adventures.

He visited me on and off during the day, each time we would have a short conversation about books, about the fact that his parents were divorced “like so many of us kids, you know, our parents don’t live together, we only see them sometimes,” and then he would turn away, off to the shelves to make his next selection.

Finally, late in the day, he said goodbye as he left. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” I said. “You haven’t checked those books out yet.”

“Oh, yeah,” and he walked over to the computer. I followed and watched as he logged into his account, which revealed a long overdue book, locking his account from further activity.

“Where is that book?” I asked calmly, pointing to the title.

“I think it’s at my grandmother’s. Well, it’s probably in a box. She just moved.” (translation – we’ll never see that book again)

“Well, you’ll need to talk to Ms. X when she returns. In the meantime, I get to keep those,” I said, gently taking the books he had chosen.

We looked at one another. He knew that I knew that he had been sneaking books into and out of the library all day without using the circulation system. I knew he knew that I knew. He said okay, neither of us made a big deal out of it, and he left happy.

Was it easy for me to let him go? After all, I am just the substitute librarian. The real one, Ms. X, will have to enforce the rules. Instead what I saw was a boy who needed to read some books and who needed someone to talk to. I gave him the opportunity to do both. Sometimes, meeting someone’s needs is more important than making sure rules get enforced.

To have our crimes known, understood, accepted, and forgiven is a good feeling. To share our burdens as well as our passions with someone who will listen is a good feeling. To get away with breaking the rules, sometimes, is a good feeling. It’s also called grace. Grace is getting what we do not deserve and not getting what we do deserve. Grace is looking at the wrong and saying it is okay, I understand, I forgive you.

Grace is all about substitutes. On this Easter weekend, we think about the substitute who paid our fines for us, who took the punishment we deserved in our place, who stood in the gap and allowed us to be clean. Because of Jesus being my substitute, I can stand before God the Father and know I am forgiven. My fines have been paid, and I have access to all the treasures in the greatest library of all – Heaven.

Happy Easter.

About Katherine J. Scott

Welcome to my website and blog. I am a writer and librarian interested in historical fiction. My works in progress include a trilogy about a stonemason from Elizabethan England and a novel loosely based on the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries housed at the Cloisters in New York.
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