Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Score


There were a few more weeks until the test. This was the test. It was happening near the end, though I had not planned it so. It just worked out that it was the final test that would determine when I would graduate.
I had to pass this test. There was just now way around it. It was the test to surpass all tests. Though no less necessary than any other test, I was out of time and there could be no re-do. This was it.
I studied for weeks. I fried my brain every day. I would take breaks, and then I would feel guilty. But there was no way to get that time back as time slowly ebbed away.
I rescheduled the test three different times. Finally, there was no more rescheduling. The deadline was upon me. I took the practice test and I barely passed. But practice tests aren’t always good determining factors. Once you get in that room, stare at that computer screen, and know there is no going back after you submit your scores, the pressure can create all sorts of dynamics that are impossible to imitate on a practice tests. I had no way of knowing how well I would do.
The weeks before the tests, I found myself praying this prayer. It was far from flamboyant, but it was all I could pray:
Dear God, I know I don’t deserve to pass this test. I think I’ve studied all I could have, but I know that I could have always studied more. The very fact that before I even take the test, I know I will have a bad attitude if I fail proves I don’t deserve to pass this tests. The very fact that I’m freaking out before I take the test proves I don’t really trust you and that I don’t deserve to pass this test. But I’m going to be the persistent widow, here. I’m begging you to help me pass this test because I really need to pass this test. I’m camping on the fact that you are a Father who delights to give good gifts to his children and that you are in the business of giving people what they don’t deserve. Please help me pass this test.”
That date of the test arrived. I felt it was very likely that I would fail, but refused to let myself dwell on it. We would deal with that when it happened. All I could do was take the test.
I usually try to pray my way through a test. The prayers through this test sounded like this: “God, I don’t know this.” “God, I don’t remember studying this.” “God, what the crap does this mean?”
If you asked me how I was doing while I took the test, I would have said I was getting more wrong than I was getting right. As I neared the end, I knew I had failed. I continued to cling to the fact that miracles happen, but knew it was unlikely it would happen in my case.
My time was up. There was no more opportunity to go back and check my work. It was over. As I hovered the mouse over the button that said “Submit Score” I began to cry. There was no way I passed the test.
Then I clicked the button. Following this I screamed, “What?!” at the screen. The score that stared me in the face was one of the highest scores I’d ever gotten on one of these tests. I looked around to see if there were visible signs of the Holy Spirit entering the computer to rearrange the numbers so I’d get a score that I was positive I could not possibly have achieved.
As I exited the room, the test proctors cheered when they saw the tears and the hesitant smile on my face. They shoved a box of tissue towards me and gave me hugs. Then, without waiting for my permission, they ripped the piece of paper that contained my score out of my hands. They cheered again, because they knew it was a high score.
They walked me to the door, and one of the proctors walked me all the way to my car. They gave me good-by hugs and well wishes. It was the last time I’d ever be in that building to take a test.
The piece of paper that said my score was laying face up on the passenger seat. I kept glancing at it in an attempt to process that this was real. Then, in a sort of dazed relief, I drove away.
To this day, I still find it hard to fathom that I passed the test. To this day, I still feel the Lord saying, “You’re right. You don’t deserve it. But I’m going to give it to you anyway.” It remains a monumental, climactic moment that I’ve had to recall many times when I’m looking at something that seems impossible. When I’m looking at something that is impossible.
I once heard it said that we should live our lives to put a smile on God’s face. Like I actually have the power to make God smile. Even so, that’s easier to believe, think about, and even work for, than the belief that God actually likes to see me smile. It’s harder to believe that He would actually give me something special—beyond salvation or my daily bread—just to put a smile on my face. It’s harder to believe that He loves me ten thousand times more than I will ever love Him.
But it’s true, and I’m just going to have to be okay with that. Because there is just no way of getting around it.

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