It is the last day before Thanksgiving break for our senior, Emily. She’s been studying for a Physics test, an exam she takes today. Like most students in her class, she is dreading that hour of testing. But then, who among us actually looks forward to taking tests?
I think back on my high school/college days and a great test taker I was not. Writing papers, reading books, homework, learning new things I enjoyed and did okay at. The tests, though, especially the math tests, scared me something fierce. I remember sitting down to tenth grade geometry tests and totally blanking out–not being able to recall one darned thing, which wasn’t saying much since I never ‘got’ geometry in the first place. I would do an internal freak and sit there and pray asking God to please help me remember something, anything. Sad to say, I don’t recall any angel visitations or magical equations dancing before my eyes–geometrical illumination completely escaped me. God was silent, I was paralyzed in mathematical darkness. Low geometry test scores resulted (geometry was the very last math class I ever took, ever). To this day I couldn’t explain a proof if my life depended on it…and I’m ok with that (really!).
I wonder at real life tests, though, that God sends our way. I wonder at the six months of my husband’s unemployment…was that a test? Was that time (for me…I can’t speak for the rest of the family here) a time of revealing to me how much I’d learned in the previous years? Was it a time where I had to not only know I could trust God to lead and provide, but a time when I had to actually trust God to lead and provide? If so, I had test anxiety!
These past six months I vacillated about what the answers were to our conundrum. The test question I swam in:
How do we manage to get through this time of uncertainty and financial struggle?
a. does God want me working? with short answer option: if so, what work does He want me doing?
b. does God want me sticking with what I’m doing (giving my time away thru volunteer work and prayer)?
c. does God want us to try to sell our comfy, beautiful home (at a loss) and move into a cheap apartment?
d. does God want me to grab this sucker and make something happen in my own power/create income however I think best?
Of course, everyone had opinions about which answer was correct. I heard many suggestions from well-meaning friends and family. But I sat in darkness about what God wanted me to do….I couldn’t hear His answer to the question. I froze up, just like I did during my geometry tests, gritted my teeth and spun in my seat.
I think part of the problem had to do with the fact that I’d had this particular test before: it was early in our marriage and we were flat broke and unable to pay our rent. I looked to God for a rescue of sorts–I wanted Him to provide for our situation. I wanted Him to show up on my terms. We landed flat on our faces, utterly humiliated. A pretty sight? No. To top it off, deleterious effects ensued for years. It was a hard lesson and it revealed to me I had much to learn about God and His ways–it was kinda like a pre-test that totally I sucked at it. What did I learn? I learned that God is not a sugar-daddy but a Father bent on helping me mature spiritually and taking ownership for my decisions in light of His will.
So, here I was, 20+ years later, taking the test again with my previous grade results blaring through my mind. “F”, I’m going to get an “F” on this one too! Unable to relax and let His answer come, I began to wonder if I could ever know the answer. The best I think I heard was “wait”…which left me with answer “b”, which remedied none of our financial issues and looked (on the surface) a heck of a lot like what we did twenty years ago. Of course, I second guessed that answer and quickly started examining my motives to see if I was hearing another voice besides His. Was I expecting a heavenly sugar daddy to show up on my terms? Was I moving out of fear? Was I afraid to work? Was I in denial? Was I moving from messages from my childhood (that women stay home and men work)? etc. The internal work was exhausting and for a heck of a long time I internally jumped from answer “a” to “b” to “c” to “d” to “e” and back to “a” again. They all looked plausible and every day Rich was out of work the choices loomed larger before me…the test would not go away, I had to stay there, check the answer I thought was God’s will and live with the consequences.
With motives thoroughly examined and fears prayerfully faced, I still thought I heard “wait”….”Jeepers, what a crummy answer”, I thought, yet to choose another answer would have felt like disobedience, which (I’ve learned the hard way) is a much crummier way to go. So, wait and stick with what I was already doing was my answer…even though I second guessed it hourly, it was all I got, so was all I could do in good conscience. Before God I sat ready to accept the fallout of my decision…ready to accept the ramifications of what I perceived to be His Will for our life. Still squirming in my chair I handed in the exam and am waiting for the test grade.
Ten days ago Rich (my husband) was offered and accepted a position that will float us pretty well financially and allow us to stay in our home. In many ways prayers have been answered (thank YOU if you prayed for us!!!)…in many ways I sense my answer was pleasing to Him. Yet, I’m not sure I aced this test. But then maybe His tests aren’t really about acing…maybe they just reveal where we’re at spiritually. Maybe they help us see how we’ve grown or withered in our relationship with Him. It may be years before I get to see this test grade…until then I think it is probably prudent to quit sweating and squirming in my desk wondering how I did and get on with answer “b” until I hear Him say something else.