A test paints a picture.
Good teachers craft tests to provide a carefully-targeted picture of what students have learned. Great teaching is the process of helping students prepare to do as well as possible on the test.
The ultimate job of a great teacher is to anticipate, as much as possible, the difficult, inescapable, real-world tests students will face throughout their lives…and to do what they can to help students prepare for those tests.
Those real-world tests also paint a picture. So when adversity inevitably enters our path, the response shows how we’ve prepared. And real-world tests are just like school tests…cramming doesn’t work.
When adversity shows up, it reveals the long-term drip, drip, drip of the everyday choices we’ve made along the way. Moment by moment, in small, quiet, mostly un-noticed decisions, we become who we are. The adversity just paints a picture.
If one has tended toward self-serving, short-term choices, toward blaming others rather than accepting responsibility, toward accentuating fear and division…that’s the picture that’ll be painted in a crisis.
If one has chosen a scarcity mindset, always worried that there wasn’t enough, concerned more about their own surplus than the daily needs of others…that person will irrationally grab all the toilet paper. The crisis doesn’t create the scarcity mindset. It paints a picture of what was already present.
Those who’ve chosen generosity and justice, who’ve decided long-term to follow and trust Jesus, will be revealed in crisis as well. Won’t be perfect, because following is a process.
One last, very important point: Great teachers know a test isn’t the end. There’s a process…learn, test, find the weak spots, learn more, re-test. The grade isn’t the point. Each test is an opportunity to see where we stand and make adjustments.
That’s how we progress. Character is revealed, not forged, in adversity. The question becomes what we do with the test results.
Some will deny, deflect, blame, spin, lie. They’ll refuse to take an honest look at the picture. No learning. No growth.
Others see the test results from adversity as valuable input. They develop a feedback loop in which they lean into the mistakes of each life challenge as a continuous learning cycle.
The test is inevitable. Once it arrives, it’s too late to prepare because cramming never works. But we can look at the results and start doing things differently.
If we want to, we can do better next time.