This morning my middle daughter, Madelou (love that nickname), was sharing that in a few days she would have her scores from the AP European History exam she took in May. If you are unfamiliar with AP Exams just think BIG, SCARY tests at the end of a long, difficult, painful year of classroom prep that you can take for $80. If you score well you can earn college credit for a class that could cost $1000+ at your university.
The idea of AP Exams appeals to my frugality and need for efficiency so I have been as loving and supportive (or sometimes task master-ish) through this entire process as humanly possible. As usual, in the interest of full disclosure I may or may not have actually said, “Suck it up, Buttercup” in the face of one particularly difficult assignment, but have since expressed my deepest and profound apologies. At this point all I can say is that we both made it through the class and the exam and no one died. And last week we started speaking again.
As we were discussing her angst that she might not score a “5” (the highest score – I just don’t know what gene pool this kid came from, she’s so unlike both of her parents – SARCASM ALERT!), she told me about another girl that took the test with her. Apparently about five minutes before the end of the exam Madelou heard a noise and looked up to see the girl erasing something she had written in her test booklet.
It took about a second for it to dawn on her, she’s erasing – she took the test in pencil – this is a PEN ONLY EXAM! Madelou looked around to see if anyone else had noticed, particularly the proctor, but she was alone in her observations. She briefly entertained raising her hand, but then worried someone might think she had been looking at other people’s papers. So she had to let it go.
(Just as an aside, I think it’s ridiculous we’ve gotten to a place in our culture that we treat exams like a national security issue and feel like we have to scare people to death to get them to follow the rules, so much so that they are afraid to even raise their hands. Before you email me about integrity and the lack of it in our society, believe me, I get it. I just don’t think taking tests should require 15 forms of I.D., a retinal scan, a DNA sample, and sitting like robots for four hours afraid to exhale because it might make too much noise. End of rant.)
But this taking the test in ink requirement is a really big deal to the AP Exam people. As she was telling me this story my heart sank for this girl. Here she had spent an entire school year in a class that probably had at least double the work load of her other honors classes. She had taken practice exams. She might have bought a Barron’s AP review book and spent countless Saturday’s pouring over all things European History. Her social life suffered and she missed all of her favorite TV shows to study …oh, wait a minute, that was me 25 years ago.
But Pencil Girl might have done all of that too. It all came down to those four critical hours and just because she made a mistake a whole year’s worth of work might be for naught.
Have you ever had that feeling that everything was for naught because of one mistake? That it all hinged on nailing it all perfectly ALL THE TIME? That you were disqualified or didn’t measure up because even though the proctor told you 12 times to use a pen, even though it was written all over your test materials, and even though you had practiced using a pen multiple times, when the rubber met the road you were so overwhelmed and overcome with anxiety that you accidentally used a pencil? And the irony is you may have used the pencil so you could erase any mistakes.
The Good News is Jesus died for this too. Before Christ we were disqualified and we could never measure up. It did hinge on us and we could never get it right. We were failures, worse we were dead. But in Christ it’s all Him and because of Him we get to live free. We no longer have to strive and work to achieve. We have worth and value because of Him.
And this is important so listen close…in Him even our mistakes are opportunities. Even when we accidentally use a pencil when we should have used a pen, or worse when it really is all our fault, we can take it straight to Him. At that moment when we engage our Redeemer, even on our worst day and no matter how we got there or who is at fault, it quits being about the pencil and starts being about Him. It’s about our relationship with Christ, not about our circumstances. It stops being about blame and outcomes. That’s more than success, that’s life, that’s reigning in life.
So Pencil Girl, if you are out there (and for all of us Pencil Girls), please know, there’s grace for this too. I am praying for you (and for your momma).
Romans 8:28 (ESV) – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
For the record, this post has the Madelou seal of approval. 🙂