“Flunked?” New Era, Mar. 1992, 26


I had failed my school’s easiest test. Now one of the world’s toughest ones lay ahead.

Everybody knew it was impossible to fail the school competency test. My high school made such a big deal about it—that you couldn’t graduate unless you passed. But it was just a test of basic reading and writing. Passing it meant little. Failing it, on the other hand, meant you were probably incapable of spelling your own name.

I took the test and thought no more about it until one afternoon that summer when the mail came. I had just come home from my summer job, hot and sweaty, and was preparing to run upstairs for a shower when I heard my mother laugh. She held a letter out to me.

Under the letterhead of my high school was the news I had failed the competency test. My eyes widened in disbelief.

“My straight-A son who spends all his time writing failed the composition section,” my mother said. “Wait until Dad hears this.”

“It must be their computers,” I said, pushing the letter back into the envelope. I was getting madder every second.

The first day of school came, and it seemed everybody had heard. My friends, teachers, even kids who didn’t know me stopped me in the hall to ask if I was the person who had failed the competency test.

I tried to hide in the library, but there was my writing teacher. He greeted me with a wide grin.

“Failing the competency test takes a peculiar talent,” he said.

I marched to the counselor’s office mumbling something about taking it to the courts.

Ten minutes later I was reviewing a photocopy of my composition. It opened with a punchy thesis and had the beginnings of some well-positioned arguments, the body of which were on the second page. But there was no second page!

My second page had been lost somewhere and my paper was graded with a sentence that ended with the word although.

The counselor apologized and said he didn’t know how it happened. There was, unfortunately, nothing he could do. I’d have to retake the test. My pride was crushed, but mysteriously my anger was gone. I signed up to take the test again.

As I walked out of the office it became clear. I had been so mad at my counselor, my teacher, and friends for making fun of me, at my mom for laughing. I was even a little mad at Heavenly Father for letting this happen. But it was just an accident, and getting mad was useless. As with most of the little adversities we face in life, it was pointless to blame anyone.

But more importantly I realized that if I let pride or anger take charge, I was doing poorly in a different kind of competency test. It is the Lord’s test, and he wants us to pass with flying colors. We will if we love our fellowmen, stay true to the gospel, and remember him always.

Photography by John Luke