Note: This week, I will be sharing stories of my spiritual journey. Feel free to share yours in the comments or in an email. I would love to read them!
Call it the curse of the firstborn. Or a blessing. It has been both. My parents always taught me to aspire to excellence.
If it was my turn to sing a solo in the children’s Christmas program, my mom would say, “Now open your mouth and sing. People didn’t come to see how cute you look up there. They came to hear your message.” (I’m paraphrasing a bit. Thirty-three years and four children have a way of dulling exact memories.)
When I was taking piano lessons, my parents would tell me as I pulled into the teacher’s driveway after another week of missed practices: “This isn’t supposed to be a social meeting to hang out with a nice lady. You are investing this time to learn.” (Again, the point is important—the quote is not exact.)
And, of course, when I went to school, you’d better believe my parents followed up on my report card. I was reading before I went to school, so they were shocked to see I was getting a C in reading in my kindergarten class. After a meeting with the teacher, they found that I was imitating the style of a cute little boy in the class who struggled with reading. I felt sorry for him, and didn’t want him to feel like he was the only one, so I read my little paper reader haltingly like he did. My parents encouraged me to redirect my sympathies to a more helpful endeavor that didn’t affect my report card.
I took grades very seriously in high school. I was college-bound because that’s what all good students are. I took all the college prep and five point classes my little school offered. (Except Physics. <shudder>)
Then, I became obsessive. I decided that I had to be the valedictorian of the class. We only had 13 or 14 students in the class, so it wasn’t an unreachable goal. Every time we had a test, I scoped out the two or three possible contenders for the valedictory medal and compared my grade with theirs. If I got less than 100%, my day was ruined. If I at least got a better grade than everyone else, I felt better.
It was probably about my junior year before I stopped to listen to the little Voice in my spirit. “Jennifer, I want you to stop trying to be the best and start being your best.” Although this was the first issue about which He spoke these words, it was far from the last one!
I valiantly tried. I studied (most of the time), paid attention in class (except Chemistry–it was over my head) and accepted the grade at the top of each test paper as my best, regardless of my classmates’ grades.
God has a sense of humor. Though I really tried not to worry about it, I admit I was a little apprehensive the last few weeks of school when the teachers were finalizing the final finals and the final grade point averages of our high school careers.
I remember the principal pulling aside my friend and me and breaking the news. “We took your GPAs out to the hundredth percentile, and they were exactly the same. We decided to leave it at that and make you co-valedictorians.”
I still don’t know who had the best GPA. I’m sure I never will. But I know that I did my best. And that is all He requires.