I don't really care much about degrees but every once in awhile, I wish I were a bit more Expert and less Novice. On Wednesdays, I presume to tell kids where to put the commas in their papers and why a compound sentence doesn't necessarily necessitate one before the conjunction but a series, definitely.
My advice is mostly preference, not grammar. I think the commas go in certain places and not in others because I like how it sounds.
And it's so obvious, isn't it? I couldn't use a comma right to save my life.
So much of it seems arbitrary, so I do what I like with these words. Commas go where I tell them and they keep their bossy little business out of mine because I tell them to. And I start many sentences with conjunctions, just for spite.
Sometimes it would be nice to have an expert's answer, but being a novice has its perks.
The other morning at 1 a.m. our little dog (who needs his nails trimmed) tat-tatted into our room (because his nails tat and not pitter). My natural reflex is to ignore him (oxymoron) like I did our toddlers at 1 a.m. They learned to go to daddy's side of the bed, as he was always much more amiable than mommy at ungodly hours (aptly named).
But the dog. He's scared of my husband and pries at my affections and is too stupid to know that I dislike him when it's dark.
A few nights prior he tried the same thing - a tapping on the floor and a plea to go outside. I had ignored him (because that's what I do and it's the middle of the night and you're being ridiculous).
My brilliant ignorance was gifted with a surprise under the kitchen table the next morning.
So on this subsequent night I heeded his annoying tap and let him out, leaving the door slightly ajar and lying on the couch to wait for him. He took so long I fell asleep, and a half hour later I shut the door behind him as he slinked away back to his bed.
He slinked. Which is a clue.
Apparently his guilty little conscience (which I'm sure he doesn't have but you know you've seen a guilt-ridden dog cower and slink and he knows what a bad boy he is) was bothering him. He knew I'd find it.
I found it on the white shag area rug, with the bottom of my bare foot. At 1:30 in the blessed-morning I'm cleaning the effects of whatever has gotten into my terrier-terror off the most uncleanable surface in our house.
So it's no wonder that a few hours later, when I woke up to the sound of footsteps upstairs and thought, my alarm goes off at 5 ; who in the world is up walking around before 5? and I saw the clock glowing 6:30, that the first words out of my mouth were, "Oh crap!".
I'm eloquent like that and - forgive me, Lord - those first thoughts in the morning come straight from the heart.
Here's the point: who I really am comes out in the worst moments, not in the best, and I think sometimes that the words I write (which are the thoughts I think) are the truest forms of my soul - with all the commas missing and misplaced; the lack of degree, obvious; the semi-colons placed wherever I want them because that's just how I think they go and I don't have to be an expert to tell you what life is like, in so many words.
You are your own expert and you know all about the crap* on the carpet and the alarms that don't go off.
When I tell those kids how to use their commas and parallel their words and dress-up their terms with some adjectives and adverbs, I am out of my league. I tell them anyway, because they expect me to.
How do novices get better?
We live life like we are the best experts, forever novices because there is so much to learn.
We turn open the spigot and bring it all captive to Christ - not dressing it up with pretty clothes, not pretending there isn't any rot in this white washed tomb, and not hiding for fear of being discovered for the novice we truly are.
I could just tell the pretty parts.
But life is a good story with bad parts in it.
The redeeming part of my story is that I am delivered from darkness - not by simply admitting that darkness is there and acknowledging the decay is in me, just like it is in you. The redeeming part is cleaning the crap out of the carpet and putting the commas in the places they make the most sense and if you're still following me here, on this Analogy Rabbit Trail, Christ in me is the only hope of glory I have or need or want.
I don't have a righteousness of my own.
The beauty of the novice is in being forever ready for Christ to redeem and teach me here.