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Sunday, June 17, 2012

On Testing.

     It's interesting being in school again. Being married and having a child changes the dynamics of being  a 'student.' My stage in life, my motivation, and purpose for being in school are all a bit different than what they've been previously. But one thing is very similar to past experiences: we still have tests.

     I'm taking three different courses and there are tests given in each of them. Fortunately, the teachers all coordinate with one another, so we know that every other Friday all the students at the school will be having a grammar test, regardless of the teacher or class level. I had two tests this past week.

     But testing, too, is different. I remember cramming the night before some tests in high school, then taking the test the next day and with a sigh of relief, thinking I'd never have to use the information I was just tested on ever again. But my attitude here is quite different. First of all, I'm not studying spanish to get a good grade. Granted, I want to get good grades-- but more than that, I want to learn to speak what I'm learning. It's hard, though, taking the head knowledge and transferring it to come out of your mouth. I can learn a formula in spanish for shortening sentences, but if I can't apply that formula to my speaking, have I truly learned it?

     Therein lies the rub. I'm an exemplary student. I've gotten A's on all of my tests thus far, I always get my assignments done, and I can respond to just about any question in class with a pretty good answer. But at this point I'm not able to walk up to someone on the street or at church and hold a conversation confidently. Should I be able to after formally studying spanish for a month and a half? I don't know. Technically, I've 'learned' enough grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure to be able to communicate. The problem is, learning it in my head isn't quite the same as learning it well enough to communicate. At the same time I realize I need to have grace for myself.

     This topic of testing has been percolating in my mind for the past weeks. It's interesting how this parallels our spiritual lives. You can attend church, go to Bible studies, and answer questions correctly in Sunday morning classes, but if you're not taking what you're learning from God's word and living it outside of the church, are you really truly 'learning' it? Are you an exemplary student (like me) that earns A's 'for church?' It makes me think of a Sunday school kid who can answer every question of their teacher about loving their neighbor and showing God's love and then shoves their little brother to the ground in the parking lot before going home. 

     Testing comes in many forms. Jesus himself was tested in the desert. We find ourselves being afflicted with all sorts of different trials and obstacles-- both physically and spiritually. I know several people who are dealing with immense health issues right now. John 16:33 says, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world.” 

     Life isn't easy. It's easy to live it as a passenger or consumer, but trying times will come and we'll always have a choice in how we respond. Do we simply let it happen and as a result be overcome, bulldozed by our circumstances, left crushed? Or do we choose to face our circumstances with Christ in mind, falling back on the faith that has been cultivated over the years as we've applied the 'learning' that we've received. When real testing comes, the easier times of testing and relying on God will act as the foundation for how we will respond to greater times of difficulty. 

     So I realize that the tests my teachers give me matter, but they're only there to prepare me for the 'real' test-- speaking with others on a regular basis in a spanish-speaking country. And how I prepare for these tests will really determine how I'll fare when I'm thrown into daily life in Ecuador. I need to put forth full effort now to transfer my head knowledge to my mouth. There must be implementation: from the textbooks to my mouth, and from God's word to our lives. And as we build that solid foundation in the small things we will be like the house mentioned in Matthew 7:25, "the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock."

     Pray with us as we are tested in spanish. We desire to have success and stand when the hard tests come. And know that we're praying the same for you as the tests of life come your way. May God help us to prepare now when things aren't as difficult so that we may stand boldly in His name when the hard times come.

In His name,

  -jim

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