I come from possibly the most prestigious junior college.
I have bright peers who eventually became my closest friends. I visited their vast mansions, graced the corridors of their bungalows and chatted by their twinkling pools.
They had all that, and much more. They had perfect grades and decorated portfolios, all of which were merely a distant reality for me.
Though outwardly successful, however, many of them are internally gripped by the suffocating fear of not getting an A grade, believing that getting an A is the be-all and end-all.
While this mindset has turned them into extremely hardworking people, many have tied their self-worth to grades (me included).
This is the unspoken reality behind the gates of our school.
You are in the world, but not of the world.
This is a message often preached, but a revelation not many truly believe.
For the longest time, I struggled with turning this from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
I have always believed that Jesus has set me apart, but what I never truly understood was this: I did not have to conform to the patterns of the world. I did not have to be as brilliant as them, as hardworking as them.
That’s because grace, like flowing water, seeks out the lowest places. God’s power is made perfect in all my weaknesses.
Because my life is marked by grace, I did not have to strive as the world says. This, I did not comprehend.
I thought that if I was any less hardworking than my peers and any less bright, I would be far worse off.
I saw intelligence and good grades as a hedge against the worries of school life. It would shield me from the anxiety, stress and fear.
Or so I thought.
This thinking tore me apart because I knew that in no way was I as brilliant or as driven as them — so how could I ever get on their level?
These little moments of doubt turned into hours of procrastination and escapism.
I ran away from studying as I feared that no matter what I did, I would never get “there” anyway because many were already ahead.
Comparison is a broken ruler… It did nothing but perpetuate a sense of inadequacy in my life.
I compared myself with others constantly, thinking that if I could just keep up with these bright minds, I would no longer feel like the last in this rat race.
But I realised I couldn’t. And that destroyed me because I questioned God about why I wasn’t made as smart as some of my peers (who did not even believe in God!).
Eventually, I would realise that comparison is a broken ruler. It fails to accurately measure the worth I have in me. It did nothing but perpetuate a sense of inadequacy in my life.
Until that revelation, however, I was immobilised by fear and unable to put one foot in front of the other because I just could not see myself reach the finishing line victorious.
Nevertheless, it was in this state of paralysis that I began to discover that we need faith. I learnt that faith is not pretending you have it, but being sure of what we do not see.
It can be hard to have faith when you are in a valley full of unknowns. However, therein lies the beauty of Jesus — He is in those valley moments to rescue me even if I do not see it. He leads me from the wilderness into the land of the living.
I experienced this, paper after paper during the A-Level examinations: the peace I had as I sat through each paper, was a peace that the world can neither offer nor take away.
I have learnt that the presence of God is not a place but a Person, and He is with me wherever I go.
Having walked this A-Level journey and come out of it with a strengthened relationship with God, I would like to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters.
If you feel like you need to punch above your weight lest you be knocked out, find peace in the fact that God has already won the battle for you.
To borrow the words of C.S. Lewis: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
You’re in for quite an arduous journey.
But you’ll eventually discover that all things truly work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called to a purpose that transcends both your worst failings and your best ambitions.
Jesus is here for you, and always will be. He gave His life for you, so that you can have life and have it more abundantly. Surely in your greatest failings, His strength abounds!
Little is much when God is in it. How much more can Jesus do with your A-Level journey?
- What does grace mean to you?
- How does the Bible describe grace?
- Where in your life could you use the grace and peace of Jesus? Seek the Lord in prayer.