The Lord recently taught me something about humility, His perfect holiness, and His desire to transform us completely. He showed me this through a recent experience I had with a college final exam, which I failed, under complex and frustrating circumstances.
As the story goes, (I’ve waited a while to write about this to allow myself some time to cool off about the subject), I got a 37 on the final exam in a class where I had a 91. That brought me down to an 81. I studied an average amount, but on the day of the final exam, I just got stuck on a multi-part problem and received next to no credit on that problem. It was basically a 2 problem exam, four hours… welcome to engineering. On the other problem, I made some sort of error early on in the problem, which carried through my work, and I was given no partial credit, so I lost a lot of points there, too.
I had always been a good student in high school and college, but this time I had really screwed up my average in that class. Every time I thought about it, this horrible bitter grumpy feeling overpowered me. I felt the emotional equivalent of being sick to my stomach:
- It made me uncomfortable
- it was persistent
- I didn’t understand why it was happening
- my only perceivable solution was to word vomit (complain) all over others.
- it brought out the worst in me.
I became angry and bitter in a way I had previously thought I was “immune” to. That really worried me. How much of me is only good and nice because of circumstance?
I stopped caring about the “B” and became more concerned about how much this was coming between me and the Lord. I was unable to experience His peace about this situation. It was just a grade- why did I care so much about it?!
I had to realize that I had a limit. A limit to my capacity to forgive myself and let go. I felt that limit, and acknowledged that I am not some super-forgiver who is able to let go of every grudge. But God is. Just knowing that, just realizing that, brought me to a place where I was able to confront my own limitedness, and acknowledge it before God. God is the source of my goodness and my smarts. I forgot that for a second. I got proud and failed an exam.
Pride had a lot to do with my pain about the grade. I had this tiny bit of pride that was in my ability to prove I am better than others. This sinful motive to make the good grade was formerly undetectable in my other motives to make good grades, which is to do my best and be a good student and all that. But this exam situation exposed that little bit of pride hidden beneath my good intentions (Isaiah 64:6)
I received a lesson about pride and grudges. There are others who may have needed that lesson more than me, yet I received the lesson. Why?
Why was He so harsh on me?
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” – Revelation 3:19
“…My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” – Hebrews 12:5b-6
God loves me. Does the farmer take care to prune the weeds? no- in Matthew 13:30, He lets the weeds grow without chastening or pruning them, and then cuts them down altogether. He only takes care to prune and chasten and trim and straighten the branches of the plants in his garden whom he loves. He’ll teach me a hard lesson about my pride before he rebukes the great hubris of another (Psalm 73).
For those whom God loves, he wants them to be Holy, and His standards are high. The tiny bit of pride I had driving my scholastic endurance was not a thing he wanted to tolerate. He’d rather me do it because of Colossians 3:23. He is perfectly Holy. If something holy joins itself to something impure… (1 Corinthians 6:15) that’s inappropriate. He’s chastening me because he wants to be joined to me (John 15:5). He is working to transform me completely (1 Peter 5:10), according to his work.