Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who gets 80 dollar library fines?

I made a lot of amusingly stupid mistakes as a freshman in college. In fact, I may expand this delightfully entertaining topic into several blog posts. However, I'd like to start with perhaps one of those most ridiculous things I did. Or, rather, forgot to do.

It all started with advanced exposition and research. I had to write an eight page research paper, and I was very serious about it. I took maybe four weekends working hard to make sure it was an excellent paper. I checked out 13 books from the library, found countless Internet sites, wrote, re-wrote, and edited. I made the works cited list, designed the title page, and did spell check. I didn't forget anything.

Well, except for one thing. Somehow, I still to this day don't know how, but somehow, I forgot to return my library books. Some way I managed to forget about the email reminders that the library so kindly sent me. Maybe I figured I'd just return them when I had time.

I took my time all right. Those books were in my possession for over a month. Now, you have to understand. The library charges late fees PER book PER day late. Sure, I'm an English person, but I can do math. To my utter chagrin, I owed the library EIGHTY dollars and change. It's hard enough for me to pay for college without THAT.

What reason could I possibly give for my negligence? It's not like they didn't remind me. It's not like the books weren't sitting in a pile in my room every single day for me to stare at. This was entirely my fault, and there was no way to get out of it. Basically, I didn't know where I was going to get eighty dollars, and my parents were probably going to kill me. Plus, they'd just say that I was behaving irresponsibly, just like they probably thought I would at college.

So, I did the only thing I could do. I brought the 13 offending books to the library the last day before Christmas break. It was cold. My heart was even heavier than the books, and any trace of Christmas joy in me had frozen and gone into hibernation.


I walked into the library and set the books on the counter. "I—I have some books to return," I remember faltering.

The girl behind the desk didn't seem to notice my nervous tone and panicked expression. As she reached for the first book, I started to feel nauseous. How could I have been so irresponsible? Had I learned nothing in the past 18 years?

I looked up from the desk when she'd scanned in the last book.

I swallowed. "Well? How much is it?"

She looked at me. "How much is what?"

I paused, swallowing again. "My fine. For the books."

"Oh," she replied, looking at the computer screen. "Let's see..."

I already knew. I already knew. Just hearing her say it aloud would really send the point home, make it real.

Suddenly, her eyes left the computer screen and rested on my face. "Well, this is weird. We don't have any record that you ever checked these books out."

"WHAT?" My eyebrows shot up. "Well, I did. I checked them out!"

The librarian seemed unconcerned. "We've been having some problems with our system. It must have just gotten deleted."

I stared at her dumbly. "Deleted? So I don't have to pay a fine?"

She laughed. "No, of course not. As far as we're concerned, you never even had these books. Have a nice break."

I wished her the same and left in a daze. I didn't have to pay eighty dollars! I never had to tell my parents about this (although I did eventually.) I was so thankful for the library's system problems.

Her words echoed happily in my ears: "As far as we're concerned, you never even had these books."

My record was clean. I had no debt to pay. Thinking back on that, I can't help but relate it to my existence as a sinful human being who has found new life in Jesus. My sins were as scarlet, but He has washed me white as snow! Not only are my sins forgiven, but He has forgotten my transgressions. Just like my library fine, my sins aren't just paid for—they're covered by God's grace! Erased!

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." —Psalm 103:12

Expunged: to erase or remove completely.

Thank you, Jesus. For paying ALL of my debts.

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