Monday was my birthday. While birthdays are for celebrating (I never dreamed I would be this old!), for me it’s also a day of personal evaluation.
Many moons ago in school, it was the custom to get report cards. We were graded on our behavior, attitude, effort and schoolwork. Each year on the anniversary of my birth, I do a report card of sorts on the same things.
Back in the day, “Conduct” was the most important of all grades. All other classes and assessments paled in comparison to the Conduct grade. If you didn’t do well on Conduct, you were a goner for sure.
In eighth grade, I sat by one of the funniest guys in the world: Bradley Mounts. I didn’t talk a lot, but I got called down almost every day. When I wasn’t laughing, I was giggling. When I wasn’t giggling, I was snickering. Bradley was so funny! Unfortunately, my Conduct grade trickled down each six-week period. By the end of the school year, I had a “D”! If there had been one more grade period and I had received an “F” in Conduct, someone else would be writing this, because I would have been slain immediately after report cards came out.
Each year on my birthday, I review my Conduct for the last 12 months. Did my behavior bring glory to my heavenly Father? Was I a good example of a follower of Christ or did I lead people astray? Philippians 1:27 compels us: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Conduct is STILL an important part of my evaluation.
Another thing my teachers assessed was “Effort.” Did I try my best in class or was I lazy? Did I give up too easily or did I show determination? Paul mentioned something about that in Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal…” In school, even though I was often snickering, I did put forth an effort. But as a grown-up, especially in the year 2020, sometimes I get lazy. Trying my best is complicated these days.
For the three R’s (schoolwork), I ask myself three questions: Am I READING God’s Word as much as I should? Am I WRITING the words He wants me to share? For ARITHMETIC, am I adding souls to His kingdom? Did I tell anybody at all about Jesus in the last year?
There was also a place on our report cards where the teacher listed areas that needed improvement. This is when I ask the Teacher of all teachers to show me what I need to do better. Psalm 32:8 reminds me, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” He doesn’t expect me to figure out everything on my own. He is willing to tutor me on a regular basis.
I’m not trying to earn my way to heaven. That won’t ever happen. I’ll always be a work in progress and imperfect here on earth. It is a wonderful thing to know that I am loved unconditionally no matter what my report card says. My ultimate goal is to hear “Well done” from the Teacher!
Birthdays are fun, but not promised. Father, please help me to make each year count for YOU!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor’s wife in Prestonsburg, Ky.)