It was one quarter of Hebrew that did me in. I don’t know which excuse to camp on: that it was an 8:00 a.m. class and I had to drive 84 miles to get there or that the prof was a mediocre adjunct (or a combination of those two things). Or maybe (here’s a thought) it was just plain old me being lazy and not doing the requisite work…but no…wait; that couldn’t be it. Could it?
Anyway…it was one quarter of Hebrew that did me in. Up until that point my seminary GPA (you know, Grade.Point.Average) had been cruising in the stratosphere. And, since self-aggrandizing pride is a not very Christian thing to have, let’s just say I was…aw…the heck with it: THRILLED! I was on my way to a semblance of academic notoriety and a possible award and all kinds of recognition that seemed (at the time) like it would have meant a great deal.
But that one quarter of Hebrew did me in. It tanked my GPA. Dropped me from the stratosphere to a mere 3.76 (I knew you were lusting after the actual number; so I complied). That was back in the day when all you could earn for a GPA was a 4.0 (I don’t know how the “new math” allows for some GPAs to now exceed 4.0, but they are out there…weird…and just somehow wrong).
And that 3.76 made me miss the academic award by (hats off to Maxwell Smart) “thaaat much” (I know, outdated cultural reference; look it up; or maybe Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway will make another “Get Smart” movie [that would be fun!]). The guy in front of me at seminary had a 3.8 something or some such nonsense.
I worked really hard for that number. Lots of hours studying and juggling other responsibilities. I worked really hard for that number and then I missed, by “thaaat much.” It’s the way of the GPA world. We can’t all be 4.0s all of the time. Or, if we are, we are haunted by the time when we will inevitably encounter something out of our 4.0 reach…some endeavor other than the one in which we excel…some endeavor when someone else will steal the show and the award and walk away with “our” prize.
We live in a GPA world. Everything about us is assessed and graded. On those days when we make the grade, we feel OK…or maybe even spectacular…for a moment. But then we know we have to get up the next day and try to trek into 4.0 territory again.
We live in a GPA world. Most every encounter…with the school…at the job…with the family…with our friends…has a “graded” component. Something that tells us we have to work really, really, really (yes, three reallys) hard. Performance fuels our forward progress. Performance saturates our souls. Performance haunts us with the inevitability of missing the mark. Because we will…miss the mark.
We are human; we are finite; we are less capable than we think. Even if we are caught up in momentary acclaim; we know we will miss the mark.
And…when it comes to our relationship with God…we are sunk. Even though we may work our hardest to earn the right to stand with Him and before Him, we know that our hardest is not enough. The best that we ever do is inevitably tainted…and it’s certainly not 4.0.
And here’s the thing: God is looking for 4.0s. His abhorrence of sin stain means that He can only dwell in the presence of the 4.0s. In the moment we ponder that idea; in the moment that idea reaches the core of our soul, we know we are sunk. Because we know that a 4.0 by God’s standards is well beyond our reach. Even a 3.9999 won’t do if 4.0 is the standard.
But what if you could, in all openness and honesty, submit someone else’s transcript rather than your own? What if you could say to the “admissions committee” that you have a 4.0? What if both they and you knew that it wasn’t your 4.0 but they were willing to accept it anyway? Wouldn’t that be great news? Wouldn’t that be the best news ever? Wouldn’t that mean we could relax and savor a relationship with God? Wouldn’t that mean we could pour ourselves into our work and our relationships and our recreation with the giddiness that comes with a lack of performance pressure?
Wouldn’t that mean everything? Wouldn’t it?
Well you can. Substitute someone else’s transcript, that is. Jesus made the grade. He always was a 4.0; He always will be a 4.0; and…if you trust in Him and His performance, then all the Heavenly Father ever sees when He looks at you is a 4.0.
If you are outside a connection with God, then let Jesus make the grade for you. It’s a little humbling to admit that you will never consistently maintain a “life” 4.0, but once you do there’s a transcript with your name on it that has Jesus’ grade. There’s no “good enough,” there is only “perfect” and only Jesus has reached that. Let Him submit his transcript for you. Just look at His grades: Love…4.0; Forgiveness…4.0; Mercy…4.0; Grace…4.0; Everything…4.0.
If you’re inside; if you have a relationship with God through Christ, then you can quit trying to “make the grade” as a series of self-propelled, spirit-sapping efforts, “I sure hope God is happy with me today” kind of works.
Because…and here’s another thing…rather than making us lazy ingrates; substituting Jesus’ GPA for ours means that we are free to pursue an excellence of gratitude rather than an excellence of servitude…a pursuit that leaves us energized and “good tired” rather than exhausted and ever fearful that we cannot…will not make the grade.
I’ve always wanted a 4.0; I think I will take the one that Jesus earned and offers to submit on my behalf. Then I can quit working the GPA and be freed to rest in Christ and be energized to pursue that excellence fueled by gratitude.
It was that one quarter of Hebrew that did me in.
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