So, school's letting out for most of you but this isn't a time to put your brain on ice; it's a time to let God set your soul on fire in new ways. This is a great time to grow in your spiritual maturity before your next semester begins. Summertime offers a unique opportunity for spiritual growth … a time when you are given ample time to pray, reflect, grow and improve. Even after the last final is completed and the final graduation cap thrown into the air, the learning process shouldn't end.
While grades and classes are probably the furthest thing from many of your minds right now … I wanted to share a quick story with you about a turning point from my high school years’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_
Just passing isn’t good enough
A large, red 'B-' was scribbled atop the term paper that sat on the passenger seat next to me. As I pulled into the driveway of my house, terror gripped me. My parents, who expected an 'A' every time, sat eating dinner. I knew full well that I was capable of an 'A' but … in all honesty … I hadn't really applied myself. The problem was, my parents also knew I was capable of the 'A.' Being good parents, they never wanted me to settle for less than I could be. So the entire drive home was an interior monologue where I ran down a litany of excuses I would offer them to cover up the reality of academic laziness.
'The average grade in the class was a C minus.' I offered to my parents as I handed them my paper. 'There weren't any A's given in the whole class. So with the curve, it's like I got an A.' I said, justifying my grade not only to them, but also to myself.
They nodded their heads in suspicious agreement. Not much more was said, but their looks spoke volumes. They were not disappointed in the 'B-,' but in their son whom they knew had not completely applied himself. 'As long as you did your best,' they replied. It was as though I could feel my heart being ripped from my chest in their gentle tone and seemingly reassuring nods. I may have dodged the bullet on my grade, but it cost me something I desired and cherished even more – the respect and approval of my parents.
No, I hadn't done my best on that paper, and thank God for the grading curve in that class. (What I actually mean is, 'Thank God for a classroom filled with other unmotivated teenagers that surrounded me at the time.' But let's not digress.) The lack of interest in my classmates made my own laziness less apparent. A 'B-' was good enough – it was still better than the most of the class. At least, it was until this particular night.
All of the sudden, the normal excuse had worn thin. I realized that I had used it too many times. My parents were not buying it anymore. I could do better. I knew it. They knew it. All I had to do was admit it. It wasn't enough to recognize that I wasn't living up to my potential. I actually had to discipline myself and do the work. I needed to start giving my best effort, every time.
Sadly, I had often approached God in the same way.
Growing in Spiritual Maturity
When I began my faith journey, I was constantly comparing myself to my peers. It's like I was walking into God's kitchen, shaking as I showed my Heavenly Father my report card. I tried to justify all of my sins. I measured my holiness by the sin of others instead of the holiness of God. I turned down the ability for greatness that His grace offered me. I settled for being 'better than most' rather than all that He called me to be. I didn't want to do the work. I eased into a spirit of contentment and lived a spiritual life that was 'good enough.' Others praised me for my 'B' effort in my faith, especially since so many kids my age were so much worse. But I knew I could be better, and I knew that God knew it, too.
Consider what Jesus said: 'I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.' …John 13:15
Verses like this one cut right through the excuses we offer the world for the sin and selfishness we allow in our lives. Jesus could not put it more simply. Here He gives us a window into the Father's heart. He's saying, 'I give my everything, every time. You should too.'
God the Father knows what we're capable of … He created us. He wants us to realize and become all that we can be through the power of the Holy Spirit’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùnot just settle for all that we currently are.
Picture it this way: your report card is hanging on God's heavenly refrigerator. Only the two of you know if you've done your best. The good news is that a minus becomes a plus the minute you pray. The better news is that God gives you the grace necessary to become a saint’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_if you're willing to live for the 'A' every day.
Identify those areas in your life that you can be slothful (spiritually lazy). Brainstorm ideas on how you can improve and grow in holiness. What are some ways you can let the Holy Spirit unleash new layers of greatness from within you? Write them out. Share them with people you know and trust will hold you accountable. Raise your spiritual bar and keep it high.
And know this … in destroying 'the curve' for the other souls in your life, you are actually helping them grow closer to Christ. God can do more with your example than you can. Embrace humility. Seek holiness. Give your best because He deserves it, every time.
God does grade on a curve’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_but it's shaped like a cross.