Search This Blog

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Got a little "test-taking anxiety"?

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. (James 1:2-5 VOICE)

Why do tests make us nervous or even a little over-anxious to the point we almost freeze up?  I have had good friends over the years who have what some label as "test-taking anxiety" - they just cannot "take a test" because their mind goes blank and they cannot recall what they have studied.  There are specific classes to help these individuals "know how" to take tests without going into this over-arching shut-down of their reason and intellectual recall, but I don't think they get at the source of the real problem.  They teach wonderful and helpful techniques for the "classroom", but when it comes to passing life's most challenging tests, we might just find we still "shut down" because we get so emotionally overwrought by the fear of what we are about to face that we are kind of "paralyzed in place". 

Anxiety is an emotion and if we are to deal with emotion we must go to the seat of emotion which really is trust.  We get happy when we have trusted something and it works out well.  We get sad when we have trusted in something which didn't quite prove to be very satisfying, enjoyable, or reliable.  We get uneasy when we don't have an assurance of what comes next.  Emotion is based in trust - either in our own ability, something we are counting on to be "as it promised" to be, or in someone who is just as fallible as we all are.  Tests aren't meant to reveal we are failures - they are meant to reveal who or what it is we have placed our trust in.  Hardships kind of do the same type of thing - but it carries this idea of being hard to endure - it is a test of endurance as much as it is a test of trust.

Embracing tests and hardships seems a little sadistic - cruel and unusual punishment which someone somewhere must be watching and receiving some pleasure from as a result of what we are going through.  At least that is how we may see it from our vantage point as we are trying desperately not to shut-down under the pressure of "taking the test"!  I used to have some teachers who would sit at the front of the class during "test taking time" and just "eye" you like a hawk.  They were looking for any "slip of the eye", signs of impropriety such as the lifting of a sleeve to uncover a hidden answer to a question cleverly disguised there, or even an occasional question from someone who was brave enough to raise their hand and ask for guidance.  Then I also had those teachers who just read a book, feet propped squarely on the desk, doing nothing much more than being a presence in the room, watching the clock to tell us when the papers had to be handed in.

Most of the time, the teacher who watched us like a hawk invoked a sense of fear or "uneasiness" in those subject to his or her discriminating gaze.  Why? Being "watched" is uncomfortable.  It invokes a sense of being "untrustworthy". I am so glad God's watchfulness over our lives during times of "test taking" is somewhere in-between the "hawk" and the "foot propper"!  If we desire to cheat in the tests of life, we are only going to lose out on what we might have learned. It isn't as though he doesn't care if we "cheat" ourselves in life, but he wants us to become aware of who or what it is we are trusting in to get us through life! Watch with the iron-fisted authority of the "hawk" and people may "learn", but will they learn to trust what they have learned?  Watch with an occasional glance our way and people will "learn" they can do just about anything they want as long as they aren't caught.

Neither "style" of "test proctoring" actually benefits us to the maximum.  If we are to "test well", we need to be able to ask questions freely, develop a means of thought which reveals a trust in what we have learned, and then take steps to reveal just how much our continual effort toward learning has shown us. God doesn't mind when we ask questions - especially when it helps us build trust. He doesn't mind when we make continual strides and exert a little bit more effort - as long as it is moving us closer to him.  He doesn't even mind when we finally have that "ah-ha" moment when it dawns us that we "got it".  He knows there is a process to our learning and as long as we are able to engage in the process, he is able to continue to teach us throughout it.  Just sayin!