what I wish every student knew

When I was younger, I started to believe a lie about myself. I started to believe that I was not smart. That I wasn’t ever going to be smart. I worried that I was stupid. I made good grades, in fact, I made near perfect grades throughout elementary school. I hardly ever made less than an A on anything, on tests, on homework, on papers. I had the most AR points of anyone in my grade, and I won some contests here and there. I had a poem published, and I never missed a spelling word.

With all of that, I still never believed that I was smart. It wasn’t like anyone had told me that I was stupid or anything, people knew I was smart. But I was so insecure for some reason, so scared that one day everyone would realize that it was just a phase, that I was no longer the “smart one.”

I think we all fear something like this, at times. We are afraid that we aren’t pretty, aren’t popular, aren’t good at basketball. We are afraid that one day, we will wake up and all that talent, all that hard work has been for nothing, because we really weren’t that talented to begin with. We start to worry that we aren’t good enough, that we are stupid or ugly.

When I was in fifth grade, we had to take this test to determine how we were doing in our core areas. Math, English, Science, Reading. Every fifth grader was required to take it, or you weren’t about to move on to sixth grade. I remember being totally stressed out about the whole thing, worrying that I would fail and be stuck in fifth grade until I was 25. We took a practice exam for each section, a couple months before the actual test. Our teachers told us not to stress out, not to worry about it, not to think about it too much. I rolled my eyes, wondering how on earth I could not think about the text when it was such a big deal. I studied for hours on end for this test, particularly for the math section because I was not the best at math.

The day came for us to review the test. It was a stuffy, unseasonably warm spring day, and I was in my math class. My desk was at the front of the room, right in front of the massive whiteboard. I remember being so nervous, hands sweating, legs shaking a bit, waiting to get my test back. My teacher began to pass them out, one by one, to each student. You could sort of tell who got what grade by their barely audible sigh of relief, or if they made a not so nice grade, a groan. He slowly (seriously, I’m dying over here!) made his way to my desk, and when he did, he slid the test over to me, upside down and waited. At this point, I was so close to vomiting, I seriously thought about running to the closest trash can. Instead, I picked up my test, took a deep breath, and turned it over.

I started bawling. I had made a C, a grade that I was not at all used to getting. In fact, I had never made anything less than a B+ up until that point.  I was shocked, humiliated, and devastated. I think my teacher somehow knew how I was going to react because he never moved from my desk. He quietly told me to go into the hall and he would meet me there in a few minutes. I ran out of the classroom, embarrassed at my tears, and embarrassed at my grade. I felt as if all my fears had been confirmed. That I was stupid, and that I had just proved to my entire math class.

My teacher came out into the hall, and made me stand in front of him. He asked me why I was upset, and I told him. He stayed quiet for a minute, looking down at the floor. Then he said something that as long as I live, I will never forget. He said “You are not perfect.” Well, duh. I knew that. My parents told me this all the time, every time I got upset about a mistake I made. They told me that they never expected me to be perfect, just to try my best. I always tried my best, and I had especially done so, with this test. To me, he was just further proving how dumb I was. But what he said next, were words that I had yet to hear from anyone in my life until that day. He said, “You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be. You are more than enough.” Well if I wasn’t crying before, I certainly was then.

No one had ever looked me in my eye, and told me that to my face. No one. When he did that, he changed the course of my story forever. My stubborn fifth grade mind could not fully grasp the entirety of what he meant, but I think he knew that one day I would remember it. He patted me on the shoulder, and sent me back to class.

If there is one thing I wish I could tell every student I meet, every person certainly, but specifically every student, it is this: you are more than enough. You are worth something. And the God of our universe loves you. You have a story to tell, and God placed you in this exact moment, in this exact year, month, day, minute for a reason. And maybe you don’t know what that reason is right now. That’s okay. You don’t have to have it all figured out, and you certainly don’t have to be perfect. Because at this minute, you are more than enough and He loves you. He will love you tomorrow, tonight, next year, when you are 80 years old. He loves you now and forever, and nothing anything you do will change that.

You are not what they say you are. You are not what your parents say you are, what that mean kid at school says you are, what your friends say you are. You are beautiful, smart, creative, amazing, funny, talented, and you are worth more than anything on this earth. You were created on purpose, for a purpose, and all God asks is that you accept that purpose. He wants you to know that He loves you, so much so that he created you. He could have made an entirely different kid, one with less talent, less ability, less beauty. But our God is a good who can create nothing less than beautiful. He is perfect so that which He creates is created in His image.

He made you for a reason. You may not know the reason now, but I pray that you believe that in this moment you are more than enough for Him. It doesn’t matter what you have done, what has happened to you, what lies you have been told. I encourage you, the next time someone looks you in the eye and tells you that are worthless, that you don’t mean anything, I hope you look them in the eye, and you say, “No. I am not who you say I am. I am worthy. I am more than enough. And the God of our universe loves me simply because I am alive.”

 **If you feel like sharing this with anyone you know, student, child, or person you love, please do. And if you do, I pray they hear you. Take someone to coffee, to Chick Fil A for an ice cream, sit them down, and tell them that they are more than enough. I think we all need to be reminded of it, every now and then. 

Steffanie xo

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