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The dreaded red marker

By Darcy L. Fargo

Darcy Fargo

March 6, 2019

If looks could kill, Mary Jude would no longer be with us.

“I’m going to have Terry Fye review the paper and mark up the grammar and spelling mistakes,” Mary Jude, the publisher, told us, the newsroom staff. “The expectation is that you’ll each go in and review your errors when you get here. If several of you are making the same mistakes, we’ll have lessons on those mistakes at our staff meetings.”

While Mary Jude’s face showed she thought this was a positive development, it was clear based on our facial expressions that the reporters and editors were not thrilled. I was outright mad. Though I was 22 and just starting my career, I had convinced myself that I was a talented writer and reporter. I didn’t think I needed a retired English teacher reviewing my grammar. The mere idea of it was insulting.

The next day, I was fully prepared to walk into the conference room – where the marked-up newspaper was to be located – to see my stories devoid of editing marks.

That was not what I found. Instead, I saw a newspaper awash with red marker. My stories were no exception.
It made me angry to have my flaws pointed out. I hated every red circle. I resented Mary Jude and Mr. Fye.
Then, I noticed something happening. Between my increased awareness and what I learned in our grammar lessons, I was making fewer errors. We all were. I’d hear Mr. Fye’s voice in my head as I ensured I placed “only” in the correct spot in a sentence (closest to the object it’s modifying, if you’re wondering), and I no longer resented it.

Mr. Fye and Mary Jude pointed out my errors to make me better and to make the newspaper better. Sometimes, we’re oblivious to our deficiencies. We need help to see ourselves clearly.

Lent is a season to focus on our relationship with the Lord and to work on the things that impede that relationship. It’s a season to seek the grace we need to identify the flaws God wants to help us overcome.

I pray we receive the red marks on our pages with gratitude.

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