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  • Writer's pictureKelsey Scism

The Dreaded Red Pen - Submitting to God's Will

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

woman holding pen, writing her plans
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Somewhere along my journey of learning to be a teacher, I read an article (or several) about the negative effects of using a red pen to make comments and corrections on a student’s paper. I’m sure there was research and some psychologist’s opinion supporting this idea, and I did try to use varied colors of ink when giving feedback, but I still longed to hold that red pen in my hand. It made me feel like a teacher — almost symbolic.

As a student and self-admitting nerd, I always liked to get my paper back filled with comments, red ink and all. I wanted to see what my teacher thought about what I had written and what improvements could be made. Getting back a paper with a grade and nothing else was a disappointment. I had already read my own writing, I wanted to read what the teacher had to say. A grade didn’t help me get better, the red ink did. (I told you I was a nerd.) So, I guess, I liked red ink. Maybe this is because I had some pretty good English teachers who didn’t fill my paper with negative comments (a.k.a. constructive criticism) alone, but also noted the things I had done well. Maybe it’s because I really liked writing and wanted to get better. I think my experience as a student is what has driven me to focus on providing comments on student’s work as a teacher. Though I haven’t graded an English paper in a year, I’ve been thinking about that red ink.

I thought I had my life figured out. I followed God’s will and let go of my teaching job a year ago. I started a business in hopes of sharing God’s love with others through food. I was happy and content with where I was and where I was headed. As I thought about the upcoming school year, I made plans to keep on cooking, loving my family, and supporting my husband. I had basically written a paper containing my story for the year. Then, I turned it into my teacher. This teacher has a little more authority than my red pen ever gave me. God, my Teacher, my Lord, accepted my paper and handed it back full of red ink.

There were positive comments, reassurance that parts of my story are exactly what he was looking for. There was also a little constructive criticism. A few areas of my story that God wanted me to look at a little more closely, make a few changes. As sometimes happens to any student, at first I thought, “No, I don’t want to change that. My Teacher doesn’t know what He’s talking about. This is my paper.”

The more I prayed, though, the more I realized that God has the red pen for a reason. He has more knowledge than me, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33). He has more love for me than I can ever imagine, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8). And he has a master plan that is way beyond me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Though some of his corrections scare me and make me wonder how I’ll ever get this done, they have also reminded me to trust in His plan for me, His story. Looking back over the past year, I am living proof that when you follow God’s will, He will provide. When you are submitting to His plan, even though you question how it will work, His ways are far better.

I guess I needed a reminder that submitting to his will is a constant process, not a one time leap of faith. I’ll take His comments written in red ink, and I’ll revise my story accepting it’s only a draft. I’ll submit it again and wait for His feedback.

Next time, I’ll try to remember that the red ink on my paper is more than a few comments and corrections. It is the Lord’s will for my life written in the same color as the blood that saved me. The blood that has redeemed me so that God is not just my teacher, but he is my Father who knows the plans He has for me.

He knows the plans He has for you, too. Have you submitted your paper with the story of your life on it to the ultimate Teacher? Have you submitted not just your paper, but your life to God’s will? Let Him mark it up with red ink, open your heart and mind to His suggestions, and live out the plans your Teacher has for you.


Father, Teacher, Lord, please take the story of my life and write all over it so that people who see me and know me see You through me. Help me to follow Your will and submit to Your changes even when they don’t seem to be what I want. What I really want is to live for You and see your plans fulfilled through me. Thank You for the amazing sacrifice of Your son, for Your redeeming love that allows me to be a part of Your family and serve You in all I do. I pray that my story brings glory to you.


Originally published July 22, 2016

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1 Comment

Minda Chow
Minda Chow
Oct 27, 2021

That is so beautifully written, Kelsey. I love love the vivid word picture. It brought to mind many memories of those papers and the anticipation of what red ink have to say. When you noted the red ink as Jesus' blood, it took my breath away. My heart is full. Thank you for sharing. Is it okay to share this with my teacher-friends?

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