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God and Exams…


This year’s A Level results were published today. Of course this will lead to fairly predictable newspaper stories about pretty blonde girls getting 79 A* grades each with the odd 13-year-old genius stunning his teachers for good measure.

These are not necessarily the stories I want to read. The stories I want to read are the ones about the ordinary teenager who has worked his butt off to get the Bs he needs to get into college, or the young woman who has overcome dyslexia to get a C grade. Not saying that those with 79 A*s don’t work hard too. But there are other stories to be told…

A couple of months ago I was on a course and we were divided into discussion groups (yes, groan, I know…) to talk about how we saw God, our images of God.

My lightbulb moment during the discussion, and something that I’ve never picked up on before, is that subconsciously I have a picture of God as the Exam-Setter, or the Examiner.

My earliest Christian formation started at the age of six or seven when I decided that I wanted to go to Sunday School. So I took myself off to the local Baptist Chapel (which was also the nearest church to our flat).

The Sunday School teachers there were lovely and I had a great time but the main thing I remember is taking NCEC exams. The National Christian Education Council set exam papers for Sunday School pupils every year and we had to study a topic, eg The Parables of Jesus, and then take an exam about it. I was a swotty kid so usually did quite well.

My lightbulb moment, then, was realising that one of the first pictures of God that I was given by the church was God as Examiner. And the best thing to do was pass the exam. I’m still working with that image and the way it has shaped my faith and how I relate to God….

I believe that God does examine us. But only in the sense that God looks deeply into our hearts, knows us, understands us more than we understand ourselves, knows what we need before we ask, knows what drives us and what sustains us. But life is not based on whether we pass or fail and exam. God’s grace is worth far more than an A*.


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