As part of a course on preaching that I took in my middler year at divinity school, I preached, and then submitted as a written text, what I thought was a good sermon. My professor thought my delivery was fine, and that the sermon showed potential. But his written comment stung: “Your stories and images are all of sin and its effects. Search for ways to convey signs of grace.”
Why did it sting? Not so much because it lowered my grade, although that bugged me. Not even because it was the professor’s primary comment on the sermon, although I did wonder whether he had liked the sermon much at all. Was he telling me I wasn’t a good preacher?
Most of all, the comment stung because it offered a pointed judgment on more than just that sermon. Whether the teacher had intended it as such or not, I heard it as a judgment on my life, and especially how I envisioned and understood Christian life.