On Gifts, Effort, and Understanding

imageI did really well in math until I got to algebra. I didn’t realize just how hard math is for me until I got into my sophomore year of high school, the year of Accelerated College Algebra. It was supposed to prepare me for calculus my senior year. What it actually did was talk me out of the honor’s math track and introduce me to a gifted boy who we’ll call Josh.

I never got to know Josh very well, but he was legendary. He took so many AP classes that his weighted GPA was over 6.0 when he graduated. His grades and test scores were his key into the Ivy League, and he majored in math at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

When I visited some of my old classmates several months after our high school graduation, I found out that Josh was really struggling with the math program. I scoffed because this was Josh. “Hard” to him couldn’t possibly mean the same thing as “hard” means to the rest of us. Josh struggled through and went on to a lucrative career while raising a beautiful family.

Now that I’m the mother of a new freshman in a highly demanding STEM major at a competitive university, I’m no longer scoffing. I will never understand just how hard the curriculum is in classes that I’m not capable of, just as I will never understand just how hard that astonishing classical piano piece is because I will never be that advanced.

None of us can completely understand the enormity of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for us because we are incapable of His endurance or actions. And yet He can understand just how hard our personal struggles are because not only has He taken those things upon Himself, but as a perfect being, He is capable enough in all things to really understand how hard our personal level of “hard” is.

We, as mortals, have no right to scoff at other people’s struggles. We have no idea what it is truly like to be in another person’s shoes. We can’t assume that because we’ve been through a certain trial, we know exactly what another person feels going through the same trial because we all experience life differently.

We do, however, have the responsibility to try. We have been given the responsibility to love, to bear each other’s burdens, to be angels to those around us. And if we try to see each other as God sees each of us, we can do our best to empathize and let others know they are not alone. That’s what we were meant to do. When we tear each other down or judge each other unrighteously, not only are we not fulfilling God’s purposes, but we are actively serving Satan’s destructive purposes. That is a scary place to find ourselves.


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