Last week in school was devastating for many of our Year 11 and Year 13 students, along with our staff. The Prime Minister announced that the GCSE and A level examinations were cancelled. Not postponed. But cancelled. This was completely unprecedented. And we were at a loss for words.
Our students had lots of questions – how will our grades be decided? What will the process be for getting into university now? Will it be fair? And a number of students were wondering if they would be known as the generation who had it easy, who didn’t have to do exams which might lead employers in the future questioning their true ability.
I was asked to speak to our Year 13 students last Friday to help shine some light and hope on their situation. Some events in my life formed the basis of what I said to them in the Sixth Form common room that morning.
In the year 2000, I applied to my local Bishop to study for the priesthood. It was my dream – I believed there was nothing else I wanted to do in life. I had put all my hopes on this. Then the Bishop informed me that he felt I wasn’t ready for this step. I was devastated and my world fell apart. I couldn’t make sense of it. For days, weeks, even months, I could not come to terms with it. After a year of living on the breadline, I made contact with a religious order and, after some meetings, they accepted my application to study for the priesthood with them.
However, after two years I came to see that this way of life was not for me. I left and started to work as a teacher in a local school. Then I got a phonecall from one of the priests in the order – he acknowledged that I had left them and that I was no longer going to be a priest but he offered me some work with him in a school in Liverpool during the summer to help me earn some money. I agreed because I needed the money!!! To cut a long story short, I met a young lady in the school who was a teacher, we started dating and now she is my wife. We have three children and very happily married.
If you told me back in 2000 that this would happen to me, I would have shook my head and completely disagreed with you. But here is the thing; if I had not been rejected by the Bishop, I would never have studied for the priesthood in the religious order. Then, if I had never left this order, I would not have been contacted by the priest to come to Liverpool and I would never have met my wife.
My point; God had a purpose and a plan that was bigger and greater than the events that were happening to me. All the disappointments, the tears, the fears, the frustrations – these were all part of the journey that took me to my ultimate happiness. We somehow expect that when we believe in God everything should be straightforward and easy. But where does this come from? It’s not in any Bible or any Church teaching. In fact, the opposite is often the case.
If you are a student reading this; God’s purpose for your life is greater and bigger than your cancelled GCSE or A Level exams. This will prove to be part of a bigger picture which you can’t see at the moment. But it will work out. You have been given a purpose that God will help you discover in the years ahead. Try to stay close to God and follow the deepest desires of your heart.
As parents and teachers, let this be your consolation and hope; the coaxing, the planning, the constant reminding to study and all the other hard work has not gone to waste. They will have learned so much from the love, care, support and tears that you showed them over the years and especially during those two days. This is you living out your purpose as parents and educators.
This verse from the Bible has been my comfort and security; I hope it can be yours too: