Thursday, 18 August 2011

How I passed my A-levels, but failed at life

Tim Simmonds has helpfully blogged about how his A-Level results day was not exactly a pinnacle of joy and the lessons he learned.

From what I can see of that story, he did a few very good things.

1) He took time out and did not make a panic decision
2) He got stuck in at Church and in so doing he was in an environment where He could get the perspective he needed
3) He did not give up on education, later completing a degree

But I bet it still hurt.

My story is the opposite of that. At 6th form I was friends with a group of really nice Christian people and by and large we worked hard. No punk bands for me, as I was president of the Christian Union and the 6th Form College Council. Although like him, the party lifestyle opening up was certainly a distraction.

With the help of some Lett's guides and quite a big chunk of hard work I left 6th form with A grades in History, German (distinction), Business Studies and General Studies. Wanting to do a vocational degree that would prepare me for the Business World I went off to university business school with my head held high and again despite some quite shameful run ins with hedonism I graduated with a first and the school prize.

Now that sounds all boastful writing it like that and in a dark part of my soul it probably still is, but the truth of the matter is that it nearly killed me. When I say killed me, I mean the man God had shaped, called, and prepared got lost on the journey and the friendships, the nightclubs, the academic success became layer upon layer of distraction and confusion.

I left university with a job offer with Accenture, and a hole in my heart big enough to drive a Range Rover through. I was no longer sitting on the fence. In this big tug of war between God and the world, the world had won. Not that I would admit it at the time. Not that I consciously knew. The two worlds I had tried to keep spinning in tandem collided and out of the wreckage I came back to Shrewsbury for my year out. My year out serving the Church.

I vividly remember a conversation with Terry Hotchkiss, my old youth leader and now fellow elder, about doing a year out. He put me under no pressure but gently persuaded me as to the merits of it. He was right. As I put out chairs, gave lifts to senior citizens, cleaned toddler toys and was part of a year team, did some training, rubbed shoulders with people from all over the country doing the FP year, met some great Church leaders from around the country my relationship with God grew, and my understanding of my identity before God changed.

No longer was my faith an academic exercise in success and failure. It was a relationship. I was accepted. Not through my own merit. Not because I had worked hard. Not because I had made my parents proud or got into the university I wanted to or had a shiny certificate, but because of what Jesus had done.

My head knowledge faith turned into the fruit of discipleship and slowly but surely the other Dave was suffocated and finally I sent the letter to Accenture before I even started telling them I was now going to work for the Church instead.

Not that Church work is better per se, but it was God's plan for me and my success blinded me to this.

And when I now think of the trajectory my exams results left me on, I see myself on the way to becoming a lonely, insecure, outwardly successful and alcohol dependant Dave still trying to make people smile to cover his own broken heart.

But I am not that person. I am me. And I am His.

The day of my greatest success sowed the seeds of my greatest failure, when I became the story not the servant.

So if you have done well today, well done. And remember who the story is about, and it is not you.


Pauline said...

That was interesting reading as usual, Dave! Very topical- yet all previous A level students- even at my age, could relate!

I don't think it's wrong to "celebrate" your successes- note I said celebrate not boast! God wanted you to have those qualifications; He created you and enabled you.

But clearly He wants us to have balance in our lives.

Sometimes the pressure to succeed at the expense of building relationships comes from outside. That was my experience. In that case, that pressure becomes a launching pad for rebellion- which is later regretted.THAT was my experience too.

Although from a different tradition I have always gained a lot from the wisdom of Julian of Norwich- a woman who was a 14th century anchorite. She believed that God can sometimes let us fall in order to raise us up again. Maybe it's a lesson in humility and dependence? I am not sure.

In order to be useful to His kingdom, we need to learn to rely on Him more- and realise that everything we achieve is really because of His gifting.

That experience certainly can give us more depth and understanding of others.

Now, of course, you have the wonderful gifts that God planned for you, and if you'd taken the world's path, these gifts may never have been yours. I refer of course to the beautiful girls in your life; your wife and your daughter!!!!!!
Sorry, Dave- Whose blog is this? This is a bit longer than a comment!!! ;-)

Jongudmund said...

I dropped a grade in one subject, went to a university that wasn't on my original application and met the girl who would later become my wife on the second day of college. Flunking worked out very nicely for me!

Alternative Entry to University said...

if you didnt get the right grades then there are lots of alternative entry to university ways which you can choose, i think there are lots and lots of ways through which you can be in university.