One can learn a lot from 8-year olds. I do every day as a grade three teacher.
Today the lesson I learned was on evaluating myself.
Emily, a third-grade student, was upset that she did the “baddest” on her power write (a writing assignment where students are given a topic and time limit to write as much as they can. They need not worry about perfect grammar, it’s an exercise in fluidity).
Emily was disappointed because she was only able to write 49 words about the different uses of helmets. “49”, she scribbled in large letters, circling it and adding the caption “baddest”, with two large X’s beside.
This reaction happened because she was able to write more words about another topic last week. Emily was trying to outdo her performance on another topic in the past.
What Emily will find out tomorrow when I give her her journal back is that my evaluation of her work is completely different. My comment on her page reads: “This is awesome, Emily. You connected the topic of helmets to some great facts and even personal stories! Well done.” I’m even considering giving her a Star of the Day certificate for her exemplary anecdotes.
As a beginning writer, Emily actually isn’t the best judge of her writing and how “bad” or “good” it is. It’s not just the number of words that count. If they were, then the famous poet by the same name, Emily Dickinson, wrote some truly horrible poems. In an instant, my proper evaluation of Emily, as her teacher and true evaluator, overturns whatever she may have thought about her performance on this assignment. Emily probably didn’t realize that there were other factors at play: I might have even given the class less time to write today.
God used this process to teach me a lesson. As I realized how Emily had wrongly judged her performance by using faulty criteria, he showed me how he is the only one who can judge justly. Whenever I sit in judgement over myself, I’ll always give myself a bad rap because I’m horribly biased, my perspective tainted by my own perceived shortcomings. Despite what I may think of myself, God is the one with the criteria, and we may find ourselves, more often that not, judging ourselves with faulty criteria. But God overturns our judgments and tells us to listen to how He judges.
What’s truly ironic is that the times that we feel inadequate before God, believing we’ve failed his standards are likely the times we haven’t consulted him on the matter. Where does our righteousness come from? Not actually from our works at all. It was what Christ did that we were unable to do. That’s why the Bible says that the blood of Jesus speaks better than the blood of Abel (a righteous man by works). In fact, Paul uses the most coarse and base word in the entire New Testament to describe how worthless his own works were: “I consider them scubilon” (the first-century equivalent for shit).
It’s God alone who holds the standards by which he judges us – and he’s told us. It’s the standard of the blood of his Son – one standard, for all, for all time. God had one test, and Jesus passed with flying colours. He upheld that standard for all of us.
The name “Daniel” means “God is my judge”. That’s easy to remember; it’s my middle name. Now my job is to carry it well.