The exam was 120 pages long. 15 minutes remained and I had only completed two pages. I anxiously shushed my chattering classmates. I hadn’t even found the Greek section. All the questions I had seen on this final Greek exam were color photos of anatomy specimens to label and questions demanding diagnosis and treatment of a problem. I couldn’t remember any of the answers.
I was glad to wake from the dream, still more grateful to wake into the awareness that life is not an exam.
Oh, I often see through exam-colored glasses. I frame a decision as “figuring out what is right” rather than “choosing, with Jesus, how we will walk together through this next stretch of time.” Or, while writing about how life is not an exam, I catch myself worrying that I won’t be able to complete the post on time; that I won’t articulate it well; that, in one way or another, I will fail.
But life is not an exam. Not anymore. Not for those of us who are in Christ. He has taken the exam that none of us can pass and has written his own perfect score in red ink next to our names. But it's much bigger than this, much more beautiful. We’re not merely given a passing grade; we’re invited into a whole new way of seeing, of being. This is no grade-on-a-curve competition, us against him and each other. Life now is not an exam but an invitation to oneness: “I in them and you in me” (John 17:23). It's a welcome to lean in close and love and be loved.
Do you see? The point of the exam is not to pass it but to help us realize we can't. Once it has led us to relationship it has done it's job. It's time then to let it go and trade in obsession with passing for enjoying the one who passed it for us so He could bring us close and give Himself to us as fully as He wants.
How might seeing life as an invitation to oneness rather than as an exam change our days?
This brain that has spent most of its years writing one set of exams after another needs to learn a whole new way to see. It struggles to find words to articulate a perspective that doesn't revolve around right and wrong and accumulated points and success or failure. But here's a start (with a hearty invitation to jump in in the comments and suggest other ways to speak this new perspective).
- Instead of the end, failure becomes the beginning, instead of a door slammed, a welcome into a love that embraces us in our need. 'Try harder" is transformed by "just come." We come by saying "thank you."
- Inability now is not failure but invitation, and weakness the door to exploring His own strength.
- Time is not a fearful opponent counting the minutes I have to complete the right answers. Instead, each moment is a fresh invitation to closeness, the next moment already full of the presence of Him who was and is and is to come and who eagerly waits for us to step into it and discover Him there.
I'd love to hear: In what areas do you catch yourself seeing life as an exam? How might seeing life instead as a welcome to oneness change your days?