The hard work, the sleepless nights, the nail-biting exams…and then the wait. The endless, anxiety-inducing wait for news…
Our poor GCSE students still have another week to go, but yesterday, for hundreds of thousands of students across Britain, the agony was finally over, as they ripped into the envelopes containing their A-level results.
And now, the scramble for university places begins. With more students than spaces, it’s expected that even those that make the grade will struggle to get onto their chosen course. Some will have to move to Plan B, in a society that has increasingly come to expect its prospective employees to be educated to degree level.
I know we don’t yet live in God’s perfect world, but part of our Christian discipleship, as individuals and as a Church, should be making the steps that help this world to become more like the one God made it to be. You might be thinking that’s obvious, but stick with me – I do have a point.
In the context of God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom that we strive and yearn for - what does achievement actually mean?
Will St Peter be standing at the pearly gates, dividing people into categories according to performance? Will there be a luxury lounge in heaven reserved for post-grads only?
Education is undoubtedly important and, to a certain extent can get you to where you want to be in life. But when we tell our children and young people that their value as a person depends on their performance in an exam (or a project, or a job interview…) we belittle them and we belittle the image of God that rests within them. We tell them that they must be useful. They must achieve. They only get one chance! We pile on the pressure but still we expect them to love themselves whatever happens. So when the results aren’t what they’d hoped for, it can be a crushing blow.
Of course we want to do well and we want our children to do well - to make the best of the talents and passions God has given them. We want to serve God with all that we are and all that we can be. But I think that God cares so much more about who we are than about what marks we get in tests or who we work for. God cares more about whether we are the people he has made us to be. He cares about how we treat people, how we cope with challenges and, (I think) most of all, how much we can reflect his love to those around us, wherever we spend our days.
And we won’t be graded. We probably won’t even get a smiley-face sticker. But I think it’s the scariest, most important and exciting challenge that we face as Christians. Anyone can apply and the places are endless.
Anna Drew, Lead Media Officer for the Methodist Church in Britain