Exam season is almost upon us bringing with it the inevitable increase in stress, panic and nervousness amongst pupils, parents and teachers alike. When you eventually sit in the exam hall, you have to write your name on the paper and sit and wait for the instruction to start. There is no more studying to be done, no more input from the teachers as parents sit anxiously at home awaiting a message to know how it has gone. At that point in time, there is only one turn of the page between you and what grade you will achieve.
All of the study and the work comes down to this moment where you are put to the test. Have you done enough revision? Is the topic you want to come up in the paper or will they have put something in that nobody wants to see? The past papers you have done and the exam technique you have refined are repeated over and over in these few moments. The grade offers from colleges and university dangle over you like the sword of Damocles. If only someone had turned up on the walk to school to go through all the answers like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
It all boils down to the next few hours or does it? The exam results that will be in the envelope in the summer will direct you down one path or another. There will be some who get to the places they wish to go, others who do not. Some results will be pleasing others not. Yet just because your name is on the paper and on the certificates of results, they do not define you; they do not measure your worth. You are more than those ten or three letters, you are more than the college you go to or the university you study at. You are more than what you can produce in two hours under highly pressurised conditions.
There may be a different path your life will take if you do not get your results, but you will not be loved any less. No one’s life is a series of goals constantly achieved, but has turns, crossroads and even u-turns. No one’s paths are the same nor the plans God has for them. You are completely unique and completely special. From the moment of conception, one job has been assigned to you, one life has been given to you; to be you. No one else can do the things you do, be the person you are. You are wonderfully and beautifully made.
So what if you do not get straight A*s or if your friend beats you in the little competition you had? We can not all be above average. We are not all supposed to get the top grades. Some people are better than you. Jesus tells the story of three servants, each given talents according to their ability. The first servant has five and uses these to make another five; the second servant is given to and uses these to make another two; but the last servant is given one and buries it in the ground out of fear. The first two servants are commend equally, both being called good and faithful servants whereas the third is called wicked and slothful.
Whatever talents we have been given have been entrusted to us to be used, not to be hidden away. Even if we do not make as much as someone else, we are still called to rejoice as an equal. To use the gifts we are given is to realise how much we are truly worth and to recognise that the worse decision is to pretend we are nothing. We give glory to God when we complete any task to the best of our ability and He is proud of us as any parent who sees their child trying to walk will tell you. Our call is to use whatever we have and give it our best shot.
This is not just for exams, but in all walks of our lives. We should choose to be the best child, sibling, parent we can be, making our relationships the best they can be, even the chores we do we should do as if we are serving God Himself. Brother Lawrence even speaks of turning his little omelette in the pan for love of God. This is not just a mindset we turn on and off, it is one that should permeate our lives.
Therefore as you close the last page of you exam and see your name on the front, do so knowing that you have done it to the best of your ability, knowing that in doing so you do justice to who you are and also give glory to the One who made you at the same time. Then it does not matter what happens next because your life is not defined by what you are unable to do, but what you do ultimately do.