On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sometimes Your Best Still Doesn't Get the Result You're Looking For

We have a mythology in this country that if you simply give it your best, try as hard as you can that you can achieve anything. We tend to think that those people who aren't succeeding aren't succeeding because they aren't trying hard enough. Yesterday I took a very hard exam which I've been studying for intensely for months. I came out with no idea in the world whether I had even passed it and it wasn't at all for lack of trying. A lot of the things I had learned over the course of months of study weren't even touched on in the exam and a number of things that were on the exam either were minor topics in some book that I never got to, or else they simply didn't appear in my study materials at all.

There are lots of things in life that are like that, parenting can be like that a lot of the time. The end result is not always due to the effort of the parents. We've all seen people whose parents broke all the rules of good parenting who at the end of the day are nice people, and we've also seen the people with parents who made efforts over and above what anyone would expect who've turned out to be not very nice people at all. Effort in doesn't always result in perfection out. I've even had it happen with recipes in the kitchen where it seems like the harder I try the bigger the mess I've made (I remember these homemade ravioli that were a prime example of that).

There are lots of times in my life that I've gotten better than I deserved for an effort (the B on my geometry final, the better grade in European Civ than my roommate (who actually went to class regularly), a much higher math SAT than I had any right to), so I do know what it's like to do better than you deserve. But I also know what it's like to try your very best and simply not make the grade.

That's why I'm so glad about grace. We can't possibly do enough, we can't possibly be good enough to deserve heaven. I'm so glad we don't believe in a scales of justice test at the end of life where what you've done gets weighed and only if you've done enough are you allowed in to heaven. I'm glad that every single thing I do that's a good thing is inspired by God's grace, enabled by God's grace, and crowned by God's grace that it's not just about my efforts.

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