Extra Credit No Longer Counts

As a high school freshman I discovered the benefit of extra credit.  It was like an insurance policy for my GPA. Suddenly those pesky pop-quizzes didn’t hold as much power.  Missed points on a test could be balanced with a bonus assignment.

Some teachers weren't so extra-credit oriented. But I’d usually cajole them into considering projects that would net me the final grade I was seeking. Finally, during my senior year, my English teacher stopped me on the way out of her classroom. She asked me the question I hadn’t faced in nearly four years, was that all-important “A” really worth what I was doing to myself?

Her assessment of my motives was the closest anyone had come to seeing through me. Others may have viewed me as studious or determined. The truth was that I hated the race but was desperate for the trophy. Sadly, like an addict, I wasn’t able to stop.

In college, I had the rare opportunity to take a yearlong Human Development course from a visiting Harvard professor. Talk about a head-trip. He was brilliant.  Demanding too. I never read so much in my life—and the workload was monumental.  The more he assigned, the more I tackled it with my insane intensity. It took him less than two months and four office visits to blast my scholastic strategy with his keen insights.

The Evergreen State College
He challenged me to re-think why I was so driven. He could see that the wrong things motivated me. My herculean efforts hadn’t impressed him at all. In his gruff way he predicted that if I didn’t change I’d never find success, because I’d never be satisfied with myself. All of this effort and I wouldn't be successful? Slapped in the face by reality. 

If I didn’t get off the extra credit treadmill, I’d never get anywhere.  But how could I get off? It was all I really knew. Or was it?  As I sat at my desk, I looked at all of my books. And there amongst all the scholarly ones, was one I had packed everywhere I’d gone, my Bible. I’ll be honest, up till then, I hadn’t spent much time ever reading it—but it reminded me of Someone I met a long time ago. Someone who said I didn’t need extra credit—I just needed Him.

That’s when my real journey began. It took some time, but I stopped pacing and racing. I quit forcing myself to measure up to self-made, unrealistic expectations. Jesus says to us: I'll take you just the way you are and help you be all you can be. The treadmill stopped. That didn't mean I became a slacker without goals, I just did what I could. God promises that if we do what we can he’ll do what we can’t. This is an amazing deal. Best news of all? God keeps his promises. 

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