Life’s little test . . . pass or fail

I wrote this piece three years ago and it still holds true today. God have mercy on me or I’m in a world of trouble.

When my time comes and I stand in front of the Gates of Heaven, my hope is that God grades on a curve.

You know what I mean: you’re in class and your teacher hands back the test that you took the previous day. You take a deep breath and you see a horrible grade scrawled across the top of the paper. Your heart sinks. The teacher finishes handing out the exams and when you think all is lost, she says that she has decided to grade on a curve. In this new world, everything gets pushed up; a grade of 80%, previously a low B, now counts as an A, a 70% counts as a B, etc., etc.

My hope is that God grades like that — on a lenient curve.

If not, I could be in serious trouble.

For example, I was watching a movie last week with my eight-year-old son when a storm hit our neighborhood. In a span of 20 minutes, the skies overhead turned black and the trees behind our house began swaying back-and-forth to the point that it didn’t take much to imagine one of the larger limbs snapping like a twig and crashing onto our roof.

After we gathered a flashlight or two just to be safe, I noticed that my son was getting anxious about the storm. When I asked him what was bothering him, he told me that he was worried about the storm hurting one of us.

My first thought was: “I guess I shouldn’t have let you watch Twister two months ago and thanks buddy for ratting me out to mom.”


Next, I hugged him closely and told him that sometimes I worry about the same thing. I said that we take the necessary precautions and pray for God to watch over us. I added that I also thank God for the time that we’ve shared together and focus on how special those times have been.

I tried to be as calming and articulate as I could — it’s challenging to come up with an inspirational “meaning of life” talk in the spur of the moment — but a big smile spread wide across his face. We went back to watching our movie and everything seemed fine. I shouldn’t have fretted. During a break in the movie, my son said that he wanted to remember my advice, because he wanted to one day pass it onto his own kids.

Yes!!! In my mind, I did an imaginary celebratory dance. I saw me standing at the head of the dais, confetti falling down all around me, people congratulating me and slapping me proudly on the back. Yes, I’m the man. Look at me, so wise, so smart, such a great father.

Lest you think too highly of me, I plunged awkwardly back to Earth a few hours later. Same night, same kid, and unfortunately, same clueless parent (i.e. me)

After our movie was long-over and the storm had passed, I noticed that a light was still on in the boy’s room and that my sons hadn’t gone to bed like I had asked. Frustrated that they hadn’t listened to me, I bullishly swung open their door and yelled at the two boys to turn out their lights. I lectured them that they were older now and shouldn’t have to be told twice to go to bed. I then promptly ran out of the room and into the hallway.

I’m not sure what made me stop, guilty conscience perhaps, but I stopped for a quick breath and turned around. Through a slight gap in the door, I could see that my older son was getting up from lying next to his brother and was climbing up into his own bunk bed.

In my haste, I hadn’t noticed that the two boys had been reading together. My younger son quietly thanked his older brother for helping him with a difficult passage in his book and apologized for getting him in trouble. Yes, I felt like an idiot. A complete and clueless idiot.

I took a deep breath and went back into the room, this time with a much gentler tone. I praised the two for reading together and being such good brothers. I also stressed that they still needed to go to bed, but apologized for yelling at them.

I kissed them goodnight and then turned out the light.

Way to go Dad. Way to ruin a good mood. Way to be a jerk.

So my hope is that when my time comes, God is in a generous mood, a very generous mood. I hope too that he takes another look at my test score of life and grades on a curve.

A very big curve.

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