Of Tests, Lifetimes, and Eternity

I’m the testing coordinator at the school where I work. That means I oversee all the standardized testing and test prep and Advanced Placement courses we offer. AP exams numbers 17 and 18 are this morning and then we’re done! What a crazy two weeks it’s been.

Administering thousands of standardized tests has been a stretching experience for this girl with test anxiety, but struggling with tests has been helpful for encouraging students with their own test anxiety. Knowing how big a test can seem means I can help put it in perspective a bit for a student who is flipping out over the PSAT or ACT and all that those test scores represent (one’s worth or identity, a whole lot of scholarship money…).

My perspective of tests is definitely better at 38 than at 18, but there are still stressful times when “Don’t screw this up, B,” can become the dominant thought. In those moments, taking thoughts captive and making them obedient works the same as with anything else: “Seek excellence, not perfection. It’s important, but it’s not eternal.”

Nothing has pounded that thought home for me more than what happened yesterday morning as I was hurrying into the church where we do our testing.

In front of the entrance sat a hearse, and the people from a local funeral home were moving a flag-draped casket from the hearse onto a wheeled cart. There was a visitation and funeral scheduled, and they were taking that person to church for the last time.

As I approached, I saw there was no one with them to hold the door open, so I shifted the box of AP materials to one hand and opened the door with the other.

Standing there in silence, watching them reverently move into the building, I could see my students standing there, watching this take place while waiting for their exams, and I thought, “These tests? They’re not eternal. But the students taking them? They are. Focus on the eternal.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in the temporal, the day-to-day stuff that keeps us distracted and overwhelmed and stressed out. But moments like that, starting your day by pausing for a flag draped casket, are bittersweet reminders that this world will fade away. The people walking it, however, will not. As a former student once observed in her graduation speech, “Education and awards are for a lifetime, but people are for an eternity.”

Invest in the eternal.