Tis the season. Proms, graduations, end of year assessments, and the dreadful question that the church mothers would ask, “Is s/he goin’ make grade?” This was their way of extending care and correction muddled together to inquire as to whether a child had engaged in the necessary steps to “pass grade” and be promoted. Although they may have encouraged through prayer and encouragement throughout the school year, the fateful question emerged in late May/early June wondering if prayers were in fact answered immediately, or if it would result in a delayed blessing. Reflecting upon this memory recently, I considered if the Lord were to ask that of me. Have I done all that I can to be promoted to the next level that I say I desire, or am I at a point of needing to remain where I am because I haven’t learned the lessons in this space before promotion? Better still, am I being held back so that others may see the hand of God operating in my life, and even the more, what do I do with the embarrassment of being retained?
We can actually get in the way of God. What do I mean? Let’s consider I Peter 5:6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” When we elect to humble ourselves, it actually resembles the opposite of what promotion may look like. It’s counterintuitive to what the world demonstrates. We witness a barrage of self promotion daily, and yet the Word of God affirms in the very beginning in Genesis 12:2: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” We joke and say that others won’t let us be great, when in fact, we often get in the way of our own greatness. When we are consumed with making the world aware of who we are, we miss the opportunity to make the world aware of who God is through our demonstrated action of humbling ourselves. Does it feel good to be humbled? Well, that often depends on if we are humbling ourselves, or acting out in a way that prompts God to humble us. And, for the record, that ain’t always pretty. In fact, it may resemble “being left back” or “not making grade.” Talk about embarrassing.
Everyone has seen you. Everyone knows the steps you’ve taken. Everyone knows it’s time for you to “move on,” and yet God says, “not so fast.” I’ve shared a portion of my educational testimony. The pursuit of my doctorate was filled with triumphs and tribulations. When I reached the defense of my dissertation, it was to be a day of celebration for everyone that played a role during my academic journey. I invited family and friends from far and wide. Without going too heavy in the details, the defense that everyone showed up to witness did not happen. In other words, I didn’t make grade. Not only did I not make grade, but my perceived failure was on display for everyone who was close to me. I was “held back” for another three months. The initial shock left me numb, then tearful, then angry, and then to a place of resolve. As the Lord took me through each stage of the grieving process, I was humbled. I’m uncertain how I may have showed up had everything went as I assumed on that day. What I can tell you is that what the Lord did for me through that experience brought me to a place of reckoning such that I owe it all to him. I take no credit or ownership for that accomplishment. Further, it enabled me to develop such a depth of empathy that I can encourage anyone pursuing education, particularly a doctorate to remain steadfast to the process no matter what! For me, not “making the grade” actually ushered me into making a lasting grade in God’s book, which is far more important and critical to the purpose he ordained for my life, and for those assigned to me.
There are countless of Biblical examples of followers of God who wouldn’t make grade or be passed over according to societal standard. However, I would suggest that when we feel inadequate, we recall Isaiah 53:1, “Whose report will you believe?” Our response, must be that of the Lord! We can’t afford to waste our efforts in the shenanigans of the superlatives that surround us. We can’t waste precious time wondering about what others are thinking about what the Lord is doing in and with our life. We can’t be concerned with what is to happen in the grade to come. Our assignment is to learn in the here and now. Study to show ourselves approved unto God (II Timothy 2:15). When the Lord deems that we’ve done what is needed, we will make grade. And might I add, with distinction. Is God truly holding you back, or you?