If we haven't met yet, I'm Ivy! I'm a wedding and senior photographer based in East Tennessee. I hope you'll relax, grab a cup of coffee (or a baja blast), and enjoy seeing my latest work, as well as getting an inside look at my life!
I don’t really know when my GPA became an idol. I don’t really know what specific day or time or month I started to put it above God. I didn’t even realize that was what I was doing at the time. All I knew was that I wanted a perfect GPA, and I was going to get it no matter what. It took precedence over God in my life in ways that seemed relatively minor. If I had a test, I would get up early and study instead of praying or doing a quiet time. The night before a test, I would study and forget to pray – or, even better, I would pray only because I was nervous about my test. I was putting it before God without wanting to admit that I cared more about my grades than I did about Him.
The sad thing is that for a long time, I didn’t notice. I was excelling in school. I graduated in the top ten, I achieved my goal score on the ACT, and I got an academic scholarship to college: all the things I had always dreamed of. By worldly standards, I was incredibly successful. I had reached all of the academic goals I had set for myself, and I was proud. There’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection, right? Wrong. I was so wrong. I just didn’t realize how wrong I was.
My parents had always told me that I worried about school too much and that my grades didn’t matter as much as I thought they did, but of course I didn’t believe them. My grades were everything to me – they were proof that I was intelligent and that I worked hard and that I was going to be successful in life. But my parents were right: my hunger for success and my desire to be the best was about to get the best of me.
The first semester of college was when it hit me. I didn’t hear my alarm, so I woke up about ten minutes before my history final started. I walked into the lecture hall and I was already nervous simply because I hadn’t woken up with enough time to study again for a last-minute refresher. My heart was beating out of my chest before my professor even handed us our tests. When I picked up my test, it took me a minute before I could remember the material. For a moment, I thought I wasn’t going to make a 100, and a tear rolled down my cheek. Yeah, you read that right. I thought I wasn’t going to make a 100 so I cried during my final exam. It’s okay. You can tell me that’s absolutely ridiculous. I know it is. I’m embarrassed. But it’s a part of my story.
At first I wrote it off as an isolated incident, but then the second semester started and it was worse than before. Even if I felt extremely prepared for an exam, I couldn’t sleep the night before. In the morning, I would get out of bed and throw up almost immediately because I was so stressed about my exams. I was so worried about making an A, it started taking a toll on my body. I would lay in bed all night praying that God would help me fall asleep and that I would be able to trust him no matter what my grades were, but I still couldn’t find rest.
Now, as the semester is nearing a close, I can’t say this has gotten any better. This is not a story of success but one of struggle. This is not a story about someone who has overcome, but of someone who is broken and weary and is seeking rest. I wish I could sit here and write to you that I have overcome the grade-god. I wish I could tell you that I trusted God 100% no matter what grades I made on my final exams. But I can’t tell you that just yet. All I can tell you is that I need Him. I know that I need Him. I’m sick and I’m tired and I can’t believe I let something as trivial as my grades come before Him to a point that I have become physically ill.
I don’t know why I’m writing this now. I should write about victories instead of battles, right? No one wants to read about struggle. People want to be inspired by others who have overcome their struggle. Well, I haven’t overcome my struggle. But I believe there is power in admitting your brokenness. I believe there is freedom in vulnerability. And how can broken people know they are not alone if we who are also broken do not share our brokenness with them?
I write this to tell you that I am not perfect. I write this to tell you that I struggle with trusting God. I write this to tell you that if you struggle with trusting Him, and if you are not perfect, you are not alone! But I also write this because I know other people are facing the same struggles as me. And I especially want you to know that you are not alone, and there is power in admitting your brokenness. There is freedom in running to God and asking Him to forgive you for putting other things above Him. Your grades are not eternal. When you reach the end of your life, God will not ask you what your GPA was or if you were in the top ten of your graduating class. He will not ask you for your ACT score. And that’s what I have to tell myself every day: My grades have no eternal value. My grades have no eternal value. My grades have no eternal value.
Yes, it is okay to care about school. Yes, it is okay to strive for greatness. Making good grades is a good thing, and you should be proud of it. But it is not okay to let it rule your life. Take a note from someone who is there right now: a 4.0 is not worth the sleep you will lose or the number of times you will throw up. It is not worth so many of the things you or I have given up to obtain it. It’s a number with no eternal significance or reward. Your GPA will not die for you. Your GPA will not bring you salvation or forgiveness. But Jesus did. He died so that we could be forgiven. And if we have placed our trust in Him and given our lives to Him, why do our grades matter more to us than He does? They don’t. And I’m praying that He will help me see that. By His grace, every day I am learning to trust Him no matter what my GPA is. Most importantly, He is reminding me every day to seek Him first.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:33-34, HCSB