As I hurried to class that morning, I imagined him tearing me to shreds. I imagined him humiliating me in front of the entire Communications 101 class. I imagined him reminding me of the grace he had already showed me with the four tardies I had already accumulated in just the first month of class. I imagined all 64 students muffling their nervous giggles as he slammed the door in my face while yelling, “You’re a mess, young lady! Grow up and try again next semester!”
Genuinely, with each and every step I ran that morning, I imagined the worst. And as I scrambled up the top of those concrete steps and dashed my way down that musty hall and into Room #214, I re-lived the tongue lashings and verbal beat-downs I had received from my father.
Why can’t you ever remember anything?
You’re an absolute failure! Look at you!
You’ll never make it in college…no one will ever want to hire you…no one will ever want to marry you…!
You’re a good, for-nothing lazy piece of garbage, and I’m tired of having to bail your sorry self out!
You’re just like your mother!
What is wrong with you? When will you ever learn?
I knew I was on campus, and I knew I was far from home that morning, but it felt like my father was right there. Right in my face. Screaming. Ridiculing me. Tearing me down. Attempting to motivate me with his tongue. I could have sworn I was watching the spittle fly from his angry mouth as he spewed another round of his latest, verbal venom.
I was terrified as I pulled on the heavy door, willing it to make as little noise as possible.
Out of breath and a disheveled mess, I looked at the clock above the white board. There was 20 minutes left; I had arrived to class a full, 40 minutes late. The test had already begun and 64, annoyed pairs of eyes had lifted from their Blue Books to glance at my late-self. I felt like I was sweating bullets of fire.
Nervously, I rushed to the back row and scanned the room for Professor E.M. Manuel. But before I could even get to my seat, I felt a hand rest on the back of my arm. Terrified, I turned around like a feral cat. And as I willed my eyes to meet his, I will never, ever forget the look on his face.
With calm and caring eyes, he gently whispered, “It’s okay, Sarah. It’s okay. I can’t imagine the morning you’ve had.”
And before I could register the grace shown (yet again) to me, he returned to my seat with a Blue Book in hand.
“Take all the time you need; don’t rush. We’ll talk after class.”
With tears streaming down my face, I opened the examination and began furiously writing. And when I finally raised my head–almost an hour later (40 minutes after the rest of the class had left)– Professor E.M. Manuel was sitting quietly at his desk with not a hint of anger lining the kind wrinkles on his face.
Sheepishly, I walked to the front of the room with my exam in hand.
“Professor, I’m truly sorry. I really am. It won’t happen again. I promise. I am so, so, so very sorry. I know I screwed up, and I know you should have kicked me out, and I’m so sorry I’ve screwed up your schedule and time. I overslept again, and I’m just so, so sorry.”
The words tumbled from my mouth in a rush of overwhelmed angst, and I’m sure I sounded like the world’s worst communicator. EVER.
“Oh, Sarah, I know. I know. But dear, haven’t you learned anything from my teaching thus far?”
Oh no. Here it comes. Here’s the part where he tears into me. See? He was just waiting to rail on me. I knew it! I knew it! How stupid of me to think he wouldn’t respond like my father! Stupid, Sarah! Stupid!
And as my head lowered, his words gently reviewed a flood of content from the first month of class.
“Sarah, don’t you remember the cornerstone of Communications 101? Don’t you remember the words of the manual?“
Again, he rehearsed the words he had been
preaching teaching since the beginning.
“Colossians 4:6 says, ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace…’ Remember, Sarah? This is the foundation for all of the theories, contexts, and applications we will learn about this semester in Communications 101.
And before I knew it, the gentle giant proceeded to rehearse the following:
Ephesians 4:32. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Proverbs 10: 19. The prudent hold their tongues.
Proverbs 15:4. The soothing tongue is a tree of life.
Proverbs 15:1-2. A gentle answer turns away wrath.
James 1:19. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
As I listened to him rehearse the words he had taught for the past month and as I remembered the merciful grace he had extended to me just an hour before, the course’s content began to click. Professor E.M. Manuel was with me, modeling all of the content he had been teaching.
“And Sarah, don’t you remember the principles of Father Communication, the author of our manual? Don’t you remember what He has sent me to teach and model to you?”
Again, the words flowed kindly from his tongue… almost as if he was one and the same with Father Communication… almost as if He was the manual.
John 13:34. Love one another…
Psalm 92:4. Sing for joy…
Hebrews 12:14. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone.
Ephesians 4:2. With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bear with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…
Galatians 6:10. Do good to all people…
Proverbs 3:3. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you.
Proverbs 25:28. A man without self -control is like a city broken into and left without walls.
The “9 Fundamental Fruits” that Father Communication stressed in His manual poured fourth from Professor E.M. Manuel in such an effortless and beautiful way.
“Sarah, it is not only my job to teach, guide, and model the principles set forth from Father Communication, but He also sent me to be here WITH you. He desired that I would manifest the manual to you, helping you learn how to best and most effectively communicate with others.”
With tears rolling down my cheeks, I nodded.
“Sarah, since all 65 of you first entered the classroom in August, I have been using my words to intentionally communicate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. I have wanted my actions to speak in such a way that the content of this course would be a reflection of my life and when on display (a real and living case study), the content would make more sense to each and every one of you as I seek to help you live out these principles in all of your communications. Sarah, I have been the manual.”
In that moment (as weird as this sounds), it was as if he already knew about the communications I had learned and experienced from my earthly father. It was as if he knew that I needed a brand-new model on how to speak, engage, interact, and communicate with others. It was as if he was offering out his hand in an attempt to heal me from a set of distorted theories and dysfunctional applications I had come to believe (and even expect) in regard to Communications.
And then, as if he was reading all of the thoughts I had just been thinking, he wrapped his arm around me and said, “Take my yoke upon you, Sarah, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.”
I couldn’t possibly share all that I learned from that semester with Professor E.M. Manuel, nor could I put a price tag on those credits I earned, but I can say the following:
His modeling in Communications 101 has changed me from the inside-out, giving me hope and empowerment to live my life in such a way that all who encounter me might say, “Sarah is a person who epitomizes the words of Ephesians 4:29.”
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”