A guest blog from By Emma Temple, MA student at Leeds and SCM General Council Deputy Convenor on behalf of our Associate Student Christian Movement
Everyone remembers the feeling of opening their A-level results. The build-up for days before, trying to convince everyone, especially yourself, that you’re not thinking about it, when really it’s all you can focus on. Opening the envelope can feel like the longest 3 seconds of your life, scanning the page trying to take in at lightning speed the information that will determine your next steps in life. I certainly remember it like it was yesterday. Here are three things I wish someone had told me while I tried to get my head around the hopes and fears that the big day brought.
1. There’s a reason I took exams – and it’s not just a number on a page
Anyone who’s been through school knows how numbers-focused the academic environment is. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the sole purpose of putting young people through school is to produce higher and higher grades on results day. But believe it or not, there is a bigger purpose to going through the stresses and strains of school life. Hopefully along the way you’ve broadened your understanding of the world, gained new perspectives on subjects you care about, met new people, and learned some valuable life lessons, both through your brilliant and your less brilliant moments. It’s important to remember the whole qualitative spectrum of experiences that comes with gaining an education, and not just the mark you produce at the end.
2. You matter more than any test score
This sentiment is repeated so much – usually by our mum or dad when we’re having a small meltdown over a botched revision test – that it starts to lose its meaning. But that doesn’t take away from the divine truth it contains. In a society that teaches us that our only value is in what we can achieve, produce, and contribute, it’s important to resist that narrative and remember that we are so much more. At the end of the day, we could all use some Ecclesiastes wisdom; all of our successes and failures are meaningless when we remember God’s ultimate purpose for us. And what is that? ‘To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). So rather than beating yourself up over a few marks missed here and there, look after yourself and those around you, and spend some time reminding yourself of the divine creation you are.
3. God’s not playing that game
Many a wise person has said that comparison is the thief of joy. It’s easy to get sucked into competition with our peers, and with ourselves, about how successful we can be and how much we can do to earn approval from those around us, and ultimately, from God. But as Rob Bell reminded me recently in his podcast, the wisdom of the gospels is that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s approval or love – God’s not playing that game. In fact, when we are our most broken, our most humble, our most at a loss for what to do next, it is then that we learn the most about God’s love for us and the least becoming first in the kingdom of God. So come what may on results day, we should remember that God values each of us beyond anything we could ever hope to earn, both when we’re celebrating our highest achievements and when we’re picking up the pieces of whatever mess we may find ourselves in. And whatever happens, God will be with us.