On Passing Tests

Just this week our six-year-old passed his swim test so that he could slide down the waterslide at the pool. They even gave him a band to show he had passed! It was an exciting afternoon. Even though he has just started school, he is used to having to take tests and he knows it is something to celebrate when he passes one.

I was a student for twenty years, pursuing advanced degrees as I worked. I still have dreams about walking into a classroom sitting down and having the teacher or professor give me a test I am not prepared for. The drop in the pit of my stomach feels real even in the dream realm.

Although I don’t miss the late nights and the calendar of when things are due, there are parts of passing the test that I miss. I miss knowing where I am. Do I have a command of this concept? Do I know the dates, timeline, and important events of this historic era? Do I know the people that challenged and pushed us to discover and uncover new concepts and new ways of being community together?

It’s not as if life doesn’t give us tests outside of the classroom. I would venture to say that there are more tests and more important tests. Am I a good parent? Am I a good person? Does what I am doing and working towards matter in the grand scheme of tilting the world ever so slightly towards justice and equality and equity? These are the tests that come to us as we age.

The problem is that for most of us, the results of these tests are ambiguous, something we can’t know right away. There is no evaluator telling us which part of these callings we don’t fully have a grasp on quite yet. Sometimes I wish there was a checkpoint or a band that you got received to indicate passing an important test as a person or a parent or human being, but there isn’t. Instead, we must wrestle with the truth that the decisions we make impact our families, our children, and our communities.

May we stop for just a minute to ask ourselves whether we’re passing on hurt or passing on healing.