Show Your Work

I liked Math in school. It wasn’t my favorite -music was- but I did OK.
I think story problems were the best.

“OK, what am I supposed to figure out here?
and if this is that, then I can solve what…. no..
how about if …. yeah, that’s it… OK… here goes.”

I hated when the teacher said “Show your work”. It meant I couldn’t hurry through – which I loved to do. It meant my numbers had to be legible. (My 8’s looked like 4’s until Mechanical Drawing taught me a new way to make them both). I just wanted to solve the riddle, right or wrong, and get on to the next one.

Then came Mr. Knudson, who loved teaching High School Algebra and Advanced Math. He was also a ski patrolman, and had great stories for us on Monday mornings. But he said “Show your work. (‘m thinking “oh-great”) That way I can see your thinking and your reasoning, check your accuracy.” (What IS this?) But he went on. “If you’re using the right approach and miss for something small, I can give you credit for what you’re doing right. You can get the wrong final answer and still get credit for 3/4 or 7/8 of the problem – IF I can see how you got there. So show your work.” (OK, Mr. K. I’m in!)

I’ve come to be the same way, only about life, not Math. When I hear an opinion that differs from mine, I’ve heard myself ask “How’d you come to that conclusion?” (Show your work). It happens professionally all the time. “What’s the rationale behind this decision?” More than a nice way of asking “why?” it asks for the reasoning, the thought process, and logic behind a decision that affects a department, maybe even the whole organization. I’ve been known to ask my wife or my kids “What are you thinking?” as they approach a decision. I want to see their work. Since it’s all upstairs, I have to ask them to tell me – show me. It helps me accept a choice different than I’d have made.

What I really like, is that I can look in my Savior’s direction and ask “Would you guide me through this problem?” and know He will. When the story problem is part of my life and “it’s just too hard!” I can ask Him “Would You do this one for me? I wanna watch how You do it.” and frequently He does. Other times He smiles and says “Let me do it with you.” and I get help with my homework. It’s reassuring to know He sees my work, and He sees my heart.

God doesn’t have to say “Show me your work.”
Never has.
He sees it all – including motive
But He will.

So when the day comes that I stand before Him and turn in my life, and He says “Ok, Phil, show me your work.” I won’t have to squirm or shudder, afraid of what’s coming. I won’t have reason to be nervous. After all, He’s been there from life’s beginning and He knows it all anyway. Much of what He’s about to see He will have helped me with. Why should I wonder if He’s going to find something that’s going to surprise Him? Make Him angry? Disappoint Him? No, the reason He wants to see my work is to give credit for the things done well – which He’s helped me with anyway.

Standing there while God pages through my life probably won’t be my favorite part of Heaven. Standing next to Knudson while he looked for where things started to go wrong wasn’t really “fun” either. But he cared his classes and about our getting things right. Mistakes were learn-points for him. God loves me -us- more than I even dare to imagine. Smartest thing I can do is ask for His help with … well, with EVERYTHING. Learn as I go, use what I know, so my life draws attention to Him.

When that’s true, I fully expect He’ll look up from my work, my life, and say “Nice!” knowing He’s helped me with it. All of it.

Selah ~

2 Replies to “Show Your Work”

  1. Phil

    I can’t speak for everyone else (it was a lonnng time ago) but once I saw a few – 1/4 or – 1/8 I had NO trouble showing my work. And Mr K. really did say “Let’s see where you got off track so you can fix things and arrive at the right answer.” He wanted us to get it – and his approach was contagious. It wasn’t long before he started connecting classmates who got it with those who were struggling. “Maybe the way he/she explains it will make better sense than the way I do.”

    He was always gracious. God’s even better at it!
    (there’s my understatement for the day) 🙂

    Phil ~

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