I actually started writing this post yesterday, and it was going to take a much different tone from its current state. But such is the way with God; things can change 180 degrees in less than a day.
Just yesterday I had an algebra test that went fairly well, except for the fact that I ran out of time to bubble in two answers onto my Scantron sheet. So when I came home, I told my father this, and I emphasized the fact that I found the rest of the test easy, so I could still get a 90%. But maybe as a result of his strict upbringing, maybe out of stress from work, or maybe being overly concerned about my progress at school, he snapped back with: “Yeah, but that’s provided you did everything else perfectly, but you never do anything perfectly.”
I don’t hold that comment against my father; I’ve forgiven him. He’s not perfect either, but he’s done a great job of raising me and he was the one who encouraged me not to give up when I was overwhelmed by my first two months at university. But the comment itself cut very deep, because since this semester began, despite the ending of the last one being good, I have felt a little inadequate. I was comparing myself to students who had better marks than me, especially one of my friends, who was in the gifted class in her high school and who is usually the first to finish each test. I kept thinking, “everything is so easy for her and she doesn’t even have to do half the studying that I do.” I was worried that if I wasn’t near-perfect then I wouldn’t do well in second year, since I want to go into a more difficult stream of engineering, and every mark I got back that wasn’t near-perfect made me frustrated.
So when I heard the words, “but you never do anything perfectly,” I reached my breaking point. I went upstairs to take a shower and curled myself up in the tub, crying my eyes out. I was fed up. I cried out to God, “Why can’t I hear You? How come each time I try to do better I end up falling flat on my face somehow? Socially, academically, self-esteem-wise – heck, I don’t even feel like I have any passion for anything anymore. Why can’t I do anything right? I’m done relying on myself; I’m just gonna leave this mess to You.”
That little comment uttered in a moment of tearful desperation was enough to turn around my entire life in the events of today.
Today was the day of the Engineering Fair, where all first year engineering students get to talk to upper year students and professors from the different programs to help us figure out what we want to specialize in in the next three to five years. Personally, I am interested in Engineering Physics, where you learn about the applications of quantum mechanics, which has always fascinated me because it’s where human logic goes to die, and you just have to have faith in what God’s universe reveals itself to be and work from there. It’s a comforting thing to know that even so-called geniuses can never completely wrap their head around what is essentially the bare bones of “reality.”
And when I went to the Engineering Physics booth, I finally tapped into the passion that I’ve been looking for. I was reminded that this really was what I wanted to do, that this would be where I could collaborate with people on new innovations and be challenged enough to work hard, something that I never thought I could find anywhere. I was energized by the positive atmosphere of opportunity and discovery. Finally I had a reason for why I was going through all this studying in the first place. All of my insecurities and doubts melted away in that hour.
Then later that day, I heard that one of our test marks had been released as well as the marks for one of our labs. I suddenly remembered my dad’s comment again, “you never do anything perfectly,” and I felt anxious. My eyes couldn’t focus on the screen for a few moments until I looked at the mark next to the “Test 1” tab. 100%. I froze. I had never gotten perfect on anything in university before, at least not anything that wasn’t a minor assignment. Then I went to check my lab mark, and there was the magic number again. 100%. I was overjoyed. My dad was wrong. I could do something perfectly!
Later on my drive home, however, I remembered what I said while sobbing in the shower last night. “Why can’t I do anything right? I’m done relying on myself; I’m just gonna leave this mess to You.” Now, did I study for that test and that lab? Yeah, I studied pretty hard, but I was not at all confident I would get perfect. I was nervous during both of them, not to mention sleep-deprived. Let me tell you, I cannot think perfectly when I am nervous and sleep-deprived. But I remember I did pray before or during both, the same prayer I’d been praying for each test I had. “God, please let me do well. Just one perfect on one of these.” I was relying on what I’d studied, yes, but I needed to rely on God to keep my nerve, to assure myself to do well, to have a clear and sound mind. Like Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, my “poor nerves” have always been a problem for me and gotten in the way of so many things.
I guess my purpose of this post is, we are not perfect by our own means, but Christ makes us perfect through Him, because He is perfect. We are told in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that He says to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul says, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” So I will boast about my nerves, my lack of confidence, and my stupidity in many things, but that through Christ I am made perfect. And indeed, at the end of my days it will not be my own successes or failures which decide whether I will enter Heaven or not, but that I am justified through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and then He will make me perfect, just like He makes all of us who love Him perfect.
Just as a disclaimer, I’m not claiming that God is making me perfect as in He will make me a perfect student. His goal is definitely not to make me perfect by worldly standards, and that is not how I have interpreted this lesson, so no one should think that I am advising people to go to God for this reason; He just used my grades as a teaching moment for me, personally. Rather, He is going to perfect my heart so that I can go out into the world and serve Him with confidence and do what I was called to do, to do what He has given me the passion for.
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). I wasn’t relying on this love; I was filled with fear. But now God has begun to make me perfect in love, and I have no doubt that He will continue to do this for the rest of my life.