Sweet Success Delayed, Not Denied

This is for the science teacher who told me I would understand if I just read the chapter, when I had already read the chapter three times.

This is for the classmate who refused to help me because if no one helped him on the homework, then no one should help me.

This is for the tutor who tried to explain difficult concepts in simple terms, but endeavored in vain because chemistry is never simple.

This is for my mom who felt more pain than I did when she heard me say “I just can’t understand”.

This is for my dad who never gave up on my capability even when I did.

This is for the girl I was in high school when I believed that I would never comprehend science, and that my personal value was somehow diminished by that fact.

I have just received my final grade in my college Physical Science class, which was half physics concepts and half chemistry concepts, and I have an A. I have more than passed this class; I have succeeded more than some people thought possible.

This is for anyone who thinks that just because you don’t get something at one point in time means that you will never be able to do or understand it, or that not being able to do one thing makes you any less valuable.

Because I go to a liberal arts university, taking at least one science class is required regardless of major. There are a couple of reasons I put off taking this class for two and a half years, but one is that I was resentful toward the entire science department because, in high school, AP Chemistry was the only class I ever made a grade below a B in, and in it I made a D. I truly thought that my brain simply could not understand chemistry concepts, and so I was not looking forward to taking a class even vaguely similar in college. My ego and maybe even my personal identity received a huge blow when I did not pass that class in high school, and in a way I have been rebuilding my perception of myself ever since. No one had ever told me that I needed to make good grades or else, or that getting all As was of the utmost importance, yet somehow it had become the basis of my personal identity, and I struggled to reconcile the ability to fail with my overachieving expectations. But now, now I have attained insurmountable success. I’m not going to say that this is because the professor was so much better (honestly, I didn’t like her teaching either), because this was about determination and support. Time needed to pass before I was willing to try again. Tackling this subject again was intimidating. I am glad that I was able to put it off, because as I took this class this semester I have been in a much more comfortable place in life, and I needed that. I needed to have a more solid and confident foundation. I needed to make a friend who I could sit by and who would make me smile every day no matter how much I hated the class. I needed a deeper relationship with God to help me keep my head above water when I had to read each paragraph three times before it made sense. Somehow, this semester has been exactly the time and environment I needed in order to succeed.

I have fought for my grade in this class all semester. It has been a difficult class, and my time has been split with other demanding classes. From the beginning of the semester, I decided that I wanted to get an A in this class, but I was still not entirely sure that it was possible. I was determined though, and perhaps in this instance that was enough to spur everything else on to fall into place. I did not do this on my own, however. My success is owed in part to countless YouTube tutorials, a patient friend miles away who somehow always explains better than the professor, and supportive parents who have always stood firm in their belief in my ability to do well in every class.

If you are struggling with a class or anything in life, chances are if it’s a big deal you will not conquer it by yourself no matter how determined you are. If people could do anything and everything on their own, the world would be vastly different than it is. Back in the very beginning God would not have said “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2). At the same time, you have to take responsibility for your life. You can’t rely on other people teaching you everything. In order to do anything meaningful, you cannot just take the easy way out and let things slide however they will. Success is gotten by actively striving for your goal, and acknowledging when you need help and not giving up when things are hard.

The point of this is not to say that I am now ‘better’ because I passed what I had once failed. My value was never dependent on arbitrary letters. My perception of myself may have been, but my true identity and value has always been contained in how much of my life I am willing to surrender to Christ. I am who God created me to be. Part of that is someone who has high academic achievement standards and ability, but that is merely a characteristic rather than a definition. Ironically, I may not have realized this distinction had I never failed.

What you do explains you, but it does not define you. What you choose to worship, on the other hand, defines your entire existence. I thought I had to be perfect because Christ was perfect, when in reality, He is perfect because I cannot be. One failed class may be a silly and minor example, but it is what helped me understand where true worth is found. I am forever thankful for the people who never quit believing in me. Whether I forget every chemistry concept by next Monday, I will have achieved something I thought impossible  while a small group continually believed that I could do it.Additionally, throughout this ordeal I have gained (or at least acknowledge a deeper need for) patience and humility. Sometimes we don’t understand even the things that we think we do; hindsight can provide a new lens even when you don’t realize the one you were using was incorrect.

Readers, I apologize for such a rambling and personal post tonight. I hope that you can see the light in my tale, and never stop striving. You can achieve great things, but even if you don’t in this season you are still worth so much. It may be time for you to examine where you find your worth, and this may require an ego check as well. If you still have finals (I’ve got three more), study hard and do the best you can, and then leave the results in God’s hands. Your result will always be exactly what you need.

image credit: firstcovers.com

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