Yesterday, in the midst of a mind-numbing conversation, filled with countless illogical and stubborn arguments, I felt like I was on a seemingly never-ending hill of a running-my-heart-out-but-going-nowhere marathon. I hit the proverbial wall, determined to push through, searching for some fuel to put in my tank.
The topic of conversation was college applications. Specifically the Common Application essays.
Mom: You should do your essays while you have this extra time before school starts.
Kid: I’m not doing them.
Mom: What?! (pause trying to digest) What?!
Kid: I’m not doing them. It’s a waste of time.
Mom: What?! (still trying to digest)
Kid: No one looks at them.
Mom: Wait a minute… according to who? Why would you think no one looks at them?
Kid: Trust me – they don’t matter. They’re too subjective. Plus, how would anyone ever know that a kid even wrote the essay? Seriously – do we need to go there? (we don’t) Explain to me why it matters then I’ll put time and effort into them. Because no one looks at them in any depth. They can’t. There are too many applications. I know it’s only about test scores.
Mom: It isn’t just about your test scores.
Kid: Yes it is.
Mom: No it isn’t. The essay tells them about you. They want to know. I promise it’s not only about test scores.
Kid: It is. It’s all it can be about.
Mom: It isn’t. (aware that I’m gaining no ground, I throw in a mom-bomb) And, even if it is, you’re still writing the essay. (because I said so… nyahh)
Kid: I’ll write it, but I’m not spending time on it.
Mom: Oh my word… why would you do anything and not do your best?! You don’t do that. (He doesn’t. As annoying as it can be, he’s honest, forthright and sticks to integrity – even when his way doesn’t make much sense.)
Kid: It doesn’t matter.
Mom: Yes it does. It’s you. You matter!!! Don’t sell out your integrity. Who cares who’s on the other side… You do it for you. Because it’s the right thing.
Kid: Mom, it’s an essay – and I’m telling you … it doesn’t matter.
Mom: Yes it does.
Kid: Test scores.
Mom: But the essay part is you… they want to know you.
Maybe I should be thankful I have push-back kids. Maybe I should be grateful that they have the wherewithal to question, rather than blindly go. But, I’m not much in the thankful mood. And I mentally beg and pray for wisdom.
“You’re more than a number!” I blurt, getting the last word in our conversation as I turn for bed. And I try to make sense of the conversation.
And I wonder … then I’m sad … is that it? Does he think that we’re just numbers and algorithms – accepted or rejected based on a rubric? And I realize I’m tired. The game wears me out as much as it wears him/all of my kids out. Today it’s an essay. Tomorrow it will be the last legs of Summer Reading. It will keep going the countless “why”s and the endless “because”s.
They might not feel like it, but they are more than numbers or checked boxes. They are so much more than a test score. They are more than ranking or a grade or a level or any standard measurement. And so are the folks standing next to them.
When I’m tired, I turn to Scripture. It’s the only place I’ve found that offers a cool drink when I’ve got nothing left. In midst of my “discussion” with the obstinate kid, as I searched for words to back up why his essays matter – why he matters – why he should do his best whether anyone notices or cares -I felt like I was running in quicksand. I know the truth, but I fumbled with words to convince.
Then I read this morning from a man who I’m sure at times felt like “it didn’t matter.” A man who strove for high road, always got back on when he ventured off. For King David, the stuff the world threw at him often didn’t seem to make sense, but the One who set him apart always made sense. As he searched to find footing, he never failed – in the midst of his successes and failures – to find solid ground in the Lord.
“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” (1 Chronicles 29:17)
And I breathed.
Yes. That’s why it matters. Don’t sell yourself short by giving into shortcuts or by doing less than your best. Integrity is worth something. It is pleasing to God. It pleases Him because of love. His love for us. Left in the hands of the world’s always shifting ways and questionable spin on wisdom, we’re lost. Anchored with a heart that seeks God, grounded in integrity, we live. Because, He is safe.
Then, here’s a little extra encouragement for those of us hitting the wall:
“David said to his son Solomon: “Be strong and brave! Do it! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! For the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not leave you or abandon you before all the work for the service of the Lord’s temple is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20 NET)
We’re not Solomon in charge of building the Lord’s temple. The “temples” in our charge aren’t made of stone and mortar. But the promise is the same.
Thanks for walking the road with me.
I’m always taken aback by the cynical nature of our kids. But that’s what our society (and a testing culture) has done to them. Thank you for being an encourager to return to Scripture! I needed that role model!
Thank you for the pep talk, the scripture backup – and sharing your road! First day of high school awaits – and turning in of the obligatory “they never really grade them, they just want to know you read it” summer reading assignments. Have a great day!