Taking Tests

As a grade schooler I loved examination days.  You know the ones where you pencil in the little boxes along side your multiple choice answers.  I knew that as soon as I finished the timed section, I would be sent outside to play.  I was in late middle school when I discovered the importance of these tests and my hurried scribbles.  That’s when the fun  ended and my stress began.  High school, college, and grad school, anticipating examinations, even short pop quizzes, produced waves of anxiety in me.  I soon learned that my stress would continue  into the job market in the form of “performance evaluations.”   Today, as a free-lance writer, my “examination days” stretch into weeks and months as agents and publishers evaluate my manuscripts.  And that’s only the beginning.  Then there’s the opinions of literary critics as well as each and every reader. And one day, all to soon, I will need to retake my driver’s exam–eeigh!

I used to believe that my progress as a Christian consisted of taking tests as well.  Everything I did was a pass-fail proposition.  One day I was in God’s graces; the next I was out.  And woe be unto me if Jesus returned on my day out.  I would be lost for all eternity.  When two of my high school classmates who I knew struggled with the same fears I did died in a drowning accident, I wondered if God caught them on an in or out day.

I sat enraptured in my Bible Doctrines class when the teacher introduced me to grace–his form of grace.  Drawing a stair steps on the board, he explained that we all grow at different rates.  Some of us are on the first step; others are on the third and a very few were on the top step.  Wherever we were, as long as we were climbing the stairs when we died, God’s grace would make up the difference.  If necessary God would collect my from the bottom step.  Right then and there I knew God would need to use more grace to save me than most of His other children.  And secretly I envied the saints on the top step who needed just a tad of God’s grace.

Heresy? You bet.  It took years before I learned that grace isn’t a commodity measured out in teaspoon quantities to His errant kids according to their “goodness,” but a deluge of love and joy from God’s “goodness.”  All have sinned.  It takes the same amount of grace to save dirty, rotten, scoundrels like me as it does to save the Mother Theresas of this world.  Ephesians 2:9 NIV, “For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith–and this [GRACE] is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God–not by works, so that no man should boast.”

No one will be  able to stand beside me at the throne of God and whisper in my ear,  “I’m surely glad God didn’t need to use as much grace to save me as He did you.  I wasn’t the one who sipped cherry-Cokes on the sly.  I didn’t steal quarters from my mother’s purse to buy fudge sickles.  I never made out in the backseat of my boyfriend’s ’57 Chevy.”

Today my self-imposed tests more often take the form of false pride, flashes of anger and failure to respond to His promptings to help others–much more serious than sipping cherry-Cokes.  Clean or dirty, nothing has changed as far as God is concerned.  His love for me is everlasting. (Jeremiah 31:3) He has freed me from the angst of pass-fail testing, in again-out again salvation.  I am free to fall on my proverbial knees before my Daddy-God, ask forgiveness.  Even before my tears dry on my cheeks, He washes me with a cooling shower of His grace.  Grace isn’t license to do anything I want; but the freedom to do what God has planned for me.



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