Recently, high school seniors across China sat for the infamous gaokao, or National College Entrance Examination. While pressure on students during this time is extremely high, parents of students also feel intense stress over their child’s performance. This article from Gospel Times attempts to reassure Christian parents that their child’s worth is greater than results of the exam.
3 Pieces of Advice for Parents on the Eve of College Entrance Exams
Every year at the end of May and the beginning of June, the land of China is shrouded in joss smoke, and every temple large and small, Taoist shrine, or even hundred-year-old tree is crowded with people. Many parents, and even some teachers, pray to gods and buddhas for their children’s (students’) college entrance exam [gaokao]. They hope that the various immortals might watch over the exam-takers, so that they can achieve a good grade and enter a brand-name school.
Of course, the Chinese church is not “absent” in this showdown of the gods. Churches everywhere organize prayer meetings for those who will sit the college entrance exams—offering their prayers for the students and asking that the Lord will watch over them.
During the exam season, there is a sudden rise in the number of believers attending prayer meetings. Many parents not usually seen at church make their appearance. Their apathetic faith is impassioned by hope for their child’s success, and sincerely they offer persistent prayers to the Lord.
These parents do not typically seek the faith, but only come to church to pray when they have a need—some believers think that such utilitarian faith is wrong.
We cannot deny that such a faith has its problems, but we can put ourselves in their shoes and empathize. Who does not consider or hope for their child’s future? As parents who have sacrificed much in the past number of years, all they want is for their children to have a decent future.
From the perspective of “pity on the hearts of parents,” it is right for these parents to come pray at church. After all, they are seeking for Jesus, not various idols. This shows that they know who the true God is, and this is to be affirmed.
But there are still a few questions that ought to be considered by parents who come pray at church.
Firstly, a child’s grades on their college entrance exam are determined by their typical study efforts.
As long as nothing unexpected happens, the entrance exam grades achieved by a student who is clever and eager to learn, will not differ much from their usual exams. Parents should not have unreasonable hopes that prayer will unleash extraordinary ability and allow the child to achieve grades beyond their actual ability.
Because God is just, he will not break the natural law of “reaping what you sow” by working a miracle to help those who have not put in effort. It’s like when he told the Israelites to circle Jericho. If the Jews had not spent time and effort walking around the city, the miracle would not have happened.
Therefore, as long as the child is able to perform as usual, it is enough that his grades do not differ greatly from usual. We must be careful not to blame God for “not working” because our child did not get great grades.
Secondly, some parents have a mistaken attitude that if they have prayed to God, their child’s grades will definitely be better than those who offered incense to buddhas and immortals, since the true God’s “power” is definitely greater than that of idols.
But in reality, this is rarely the result. Many students who offer incense and pray to Buddha get better grades than Christian students. Faced with this reality, some parents begin doubting. Don’t we say that Jesus is powerful? Why is he less powerful than the people who pray to idols?
We need to understand that God grants general revelation to humans. Whatever faith or religion people might believe in, they have the same varying levels of cleverness and ability. That they can help human civilization progress is God’s grace to humans. If a Christian student only has average abilities in studying, and children from families of other religious backgrounds happen to have amazing abilities, then no matter how much a parent prays to God, the Christian student’s grade in the entrance exam will not be higher than that of the child from a different religion.
That is why we need to take a calm attitude, and view everyone’s difference in ability with objectivity, instead of thinking that Jesus’ power is limited. Furthermore, while some children do not study well, they may excel in areas such as character or sports. This is also worth affirming.
Finally, parents must understand that while the college entrance exam is important to the child’s future, it is not the entirety of their life.
Entering a good university does not mean that they will have a successful life, and not being able to enter university should not be “the end of the world” for students.
Although competition is fierce in the current society, and degrees are highly valued, our society is increasingly diversifying, and there are many ways to establish a career. As they say, “360 different careers each have their valedictorians.” God has given different people different gifts, and as long as they are willing to work hard, they can attain success in their various fields.
The classic example is the reunion dinner, where someone once recognized to be the last in the class now shows off his achievements in front of the straight-A students. Even though I disagree with such action, it can prove that success in the entrance exams is not absolute. There are many factors affecting success or failure in life. We cannot simply say “the college entrance exams determine the success of the rest of one’s life.”
Most importantly, the value of a life is not merely the success we might attain in this world. For Christians, life is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” How God sees us is not dependent on how great or how excellent we are, but whether or not we obey his will.
If someone achieves immeasurable success in this world, but does not receive salvation, then it is only a matter of several decades of joy. But for someone who has eternal life, his joy is without end. Therefore, it is a beautiful thing for Christian parents to pray for students sitting the exam, but we must adjust our attitude and approach it with calm. Whatever the result, we must have a thankful heart.
Note: The author is a Christian from Fujian. The views in this article are for reference only.
Image credit: 备战高考by Aaron.huo via Flickr.
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