“And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep [guard] your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:7 (EXB)
Fumbling through different actions for the verse above, on a Greystones beach in July last year, to the tune of “Kiss You” by One Direction (what else?), I never figured how much those words would prod and poke their way into my life this year. As I tangled myself in knots every other day (or hour, or minute?), they would occasionally come back, head cocked to one side, sympathetically reminding me of the Gospel message that I was so eager to share with the kids. That amongst my worries, worries and also worries there could be…. peace.
I just finished my exams. And although, like every year, I was worried that I would fail all of them, the usual sense of peace and undeserved calm arrived and made itself comfortable. Each day the turnaround was difficult, changing from one exam to learning the entire course for the next (sorry if this makes anyone anxious, as even typing it I’m getting nervous). But each time, God prepared me just the right amount. For one exam, I just couldn’t take in any more information, and decided to leave it and go watch a movie (on a school night??). And as I reflected on the exam on the train home the next day, I wondered whether that had been intentional from God (it sounds like I reflect on the train every day; I forgot my headphones): That he was guiding me to cover what was necessary, and to prioritise my own rest and well-being above work.
This tactic didn’t always end in a ‘perfect’ exam; for most I wished I had covered more material, but within those, I still felt that odd sense of calm.
In Psalm 121:3, it says, “He will not let your foot slip- he who watches over you will not slumber”. Sometimes when you open an exam and see the first question, you can feel thrown, as if you did indeed just slip. It’s like when you think you’ve figured out ice-skating, and you confidently try and take a one-foot stride, instantly skidding embarrassingly into a horde of children who had been gripping, white-knuckled, onto those snowy Zimmer frames. Suddenly you’re questioning whether you were ever able to walk on two feet in the first place. This year however, even though I knew that some exams did not go as well as others, each nasty question fazed me for a mere second or two. And then I just started writing, left it up to Him, and moved on. Because I knew He wouldn’t let my foot slip, and that he was empowering me to simply do what I needed to do that day.
I am worried that I will fail one exam in particular. If I do, I will have to repeat the year or drop out. I knew it would be the hardest exam too. I could have given up and accepted my fate, or I knew I could use the gifts that God has given to me; 1 Timothy 4:14 says “Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.” If it is His will for me to hobble on to fourth year, then it will happen. And unlike every answer I put down in every exam, that is something I am confident in.
‘Caesar’, by The Oh Hellos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBGVpUHnip4), is a bittersweet song about the day Jesus died. It starts with the sarcastic, jeering victory that those putting Him to death assumed they had won. But then it rejoices in the truth of that day, the real victory;
Sound every horn as the columns extend
Up to the hill where the king will ascend
Look to the sky where the sign will be shown
Heaven and earth and the king on his throne
On that Greystones beach, I did the action for ‘guard’ from the verse at the top of this page. It involved pointing your elbow outwards and tucking your closed fist in, as if holding a shield in a war (Although most of the kids took this as an opportunity to dab). Just like Jesus won the final victory on the cross, so does He continue to fight what realistically is a daily battle, against the worries and thoughts that threaten to consume us. But his weapon of choice is a shield; He shrouds us in peace, keeping us safe from what the world wants to break down.