The Test

September 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm (Spiritual)

So one day, Satan approached God and challenged Him to a little game. There was this devoted servant of God named Job, and Satan wanted to prove that, given the right circumstances, Job would curse God’s name. God decided to play along, and set a rule: that Satan couldn’t physically harm Job. So Satan killed Job’s family, bankrupted him, and outcast him from his community. When that didn’t work, Satan asked God to change the rules so that Job could “really” prove his devotion to God. God agreed, and Satan went to work giving Job a host of diseases.

If you know the story, you know how it ends – Job never turns his back on God, but he does question Him about his circumstance.

When a person is suffering, it is common to think of it as a test. I know I do, as I once frantically posted to a spirit worker email list asking if anyone knew what I had done to piss Loki off, since I was so sick and Loki had been pretty quiet on the subject. In my heart, I knew that my affliction had nothing to do with Loki, but there’s some programming (maybe because I was raised Christian?) that one of the reasons humans suffer is to test their faith.

When I think about tests, I think about walking into a quiet hall with nothing but a number 2 pencil. There’s some proctor up front, who looks pretty bored unless you make noise. You take a seat, are handed some papers and a bubble response sheet. The proctor tells you how long you have to complete the test, and then you begin.

Some tests are easy, and you finish way before the time limit. Sometimes you have to sit quietly in your chair until everyone else finishes, but the better times are when you get to leave early. Some tests are challenging, and you find yourself scribbling the last few answers as time is called. And I remember some math tests (I really, really suck at math) where you could have given me the rest of my life to finish the test and there was just no way I was going to, so the end just came and I had to comfort myself that I had did the best I could.

There was one test I took in early high school where the proctor, wanting to up his passing rate, walked around secretly giving advice to us test takers. He would look at your wrong answer and give you a look, and maybe even suggest that you look at the question again. He never outright gave us the right answers, but he did a lot of shady things to help us pass.

It’s funny, as I think about it. I think about what that teacher did as “cheating”. He clearly abused the fact that he was proctoring a test that he had a vested outcome in, and did what he could to make it look like we were more prepared for the final than we really were. (As I remember the class, we did a lot of talking and hanging out, so his worry that we would fail the test was probably reasonable.)

When it comes to spiritual tests, however, we hope for the cheating proctor. As we are afflicted and in pain, when things are more difficult for us than they once were, when we cannot access joy or happiness about our lives, we find ourselves looking to the Universe to give us a sign that we’re still doing okay on our test, that our choices are the right answers, and that we are still on track to a passing grade. Maybe we pray to our Gods that if they could just ease our suffering for a little while, to give us a break or a breakthrough, that it would prove that our experience had purpose, had some meaning.  We’re afraid of meaninglessness in our worlds of faith. I know that I scan for signs and omens that I am on the right track when I get new information from a doctor – is this going to lead to an end of my suffering?

I don’t know if it makes me lucky, or unique, or just like everyone else, but my Gods are not cheaters. I know that they are present throughout my suffering, sometimes even making their presence by my bedside known, but if they give me the answers, it will lessen my personal experience, which is the only thumbprint on the world I get to make. I’m not saying that I suffer because It Is The Will Of the Gods that I suffer, but I see my suffering as no different than anyone else’s trials and tribulations. Mine are physical now, but in the past I have had spiritual and mental afflictions that were pretty damn bad, too. I grew up poor and neglected; I struggled with mental health issues throughout my twenties; I had dedicated my life to Christ when the church found out I was a freak and kicked me out and made most of my friends shun me. None of these times were better or worse than what I’m going through now – it’s just another leg in my personal journey of life.

What I have come to hope for, and to have faith in, is to make my proctors proud. I do my best to read and re-read the instructions to the test through divination, meditation, intercession, prayer, and intuition. I accept that my test has purpose (not just something thrown at me by a substitute teacher to keep me busy while the teacher is on maternity leave), and that in the end, my passing (pun intended) will be proven by the fact that I have lived out my purpose – which is to help others grow and maintain full spiritual lives.

I know you feel like you are being tested sometimes. Sometimes it may even feel like two forces are playing a game to see if you can stand up to the challenges being thrown at you and not becoming something that you’re not. It’s easy to have faith in what you believe in when things are easy – when you’re blowing through the questions – but I think those are the times we tend to take for granted, and they don’t leave any scars on your soul. I think I am most in my faith when the test is just challenging enough – a little sweat on the brow, a little trembling of my pencil – to prove how strong I am to myself. Those are the moments that change me, that make me a better human being, that throw me into the alchemical crucible and turn me into gold. And I do my Gods proud when I continue to push forward through difficulties, and I am rewarded with moments of inspiration and joy. I know in my heart that even in the darkest moments when I feel like someone is throwing everything they can at me (and maybe even changing the rules along the way) that I make a good devotee when my faith remains strong.

That faith is a well. The more I pour into it, the more I trust that I am doing the best with the resources I have, the deeper the well becomes, the more it can hold. The blessing comes when I can share what’s in that well with others who need it, like I did when I wrote that email to the spirit worker list.

 

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