image by Angelina Litvin from Unsplash
How do we pray for the haggard-eyed students with absent expressions and highlighter-stained fingers, anxiously sharing about that upcoming exam they've been preparing so hard for?
God, please give them the grade they want.
God, please don't discourage them by the grades they get.
God, help them to have peace in their hearts to accept whatever grade You give them.
God, please give them the grade they deserve after all the hard work they've put in.
God, help them to have the right mentality towards exams and grades, to have perspective.
God, help them to trust You and rely on You better through this experience.
I've heard all these alternatives, and have myself prayed variations on them.
I no longer have to worry about exams and grades, something I am thankful for; but with memories still fresh, it's only natural to feel a helpless, heavy compassion on behalf of the students who are so burdened by it. What should we be praying for them, exactly? We all want God to just give them the good results they want so badly, but we have to acknowledge that "if it's Your will"--wondering uneasily how we would deal with it, if it really isn't.
As students in a society that only increasingly emphasizes education as a means of safeguarding your future, measuring your worth, and determining how others see us, we all constantly struggle to maintain a God-honouring, balanced, healthy mindset towards grades and being assessed. Easier said than done, right.
Bob Schultz, the author of Boyhood and Beyond, had a simple but sobering insight that really helped me adjust the mindset I had towards grades: rejoice in the truth.
It's easy to rejoice in the truth when the truth reflects well on us; we don't need to be reminded to do that.
What's more difficult to live out is when it doesn't.
If you were lazy, procrastinated, shirked the work you should have put in--if your grades reflect that, the right response would be to humbly accept it and treat it as a difficult, but necessary lesson for yourself.
But if you worked hard, yet still struggled--couldn't understand, couldn't get it--and your grades reflect that, it would be much more painful to accept.
However, why not accept that it's the truth? There should not be so much stigma in admitting that you just didn't know your stuff, and need more time, need another chance. Your hard work is not negated just because it didn't end up with the results you wanted. It might simply be a step in the process.
Let's be honest. Even if we barely understood what the paper was about, if we somehow got a good grade on it, we'd celebrate and feel like it was a kind of achievement. Regardless of whether we actually knew our stuff or not, we'd settle for getting a good grade just so we can move on, and feel happy about it. We're prioritizing results over the truth. We've been taught that it's better to reject the truth, if the truth reflects badly on us.
I remember crying when my mom made me repeat a grade once (maths was the bane of my childhood existence) overwhelmed that I had been officially branded as stupid. I had resorted to cheating, peeking at the answer key, because I wouldn't admit I didn't understand the concepts, even though I could barely do the questions. Interestingly, it was the end of the world for me, but not because I didn't understand my maths--it should have been, but that was not the real issue at stake to me. I was more concerned that it was now public knowledge. To accept the facts and acknowledge that I didn't understand was a blow to my pride.
Maybe this sounds like a detour into educational philosophy, and maybe it is. But it reminds me of how, before we can bring ourselves to confess "I have sinned," there is no chance for repentance, for life.
It is no longer a condemnation of who we are, because it isn't the sole indication of our identity or our worth. Just as we are no longer defined by our sin, and are free to live out our identity as God's children, we are not defined by our grades, by our achievements, by how a certain educational system assesses us. And that's why we can rejoice in the truth.
We need to not be so afraid of the truth, as it liberates us and enables us to truly progress, to grow.
"The truth will set you free."
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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