Flunking High School Algebra Is Not The End Of The World

Sometimes high school students ask me how to become a judge. Here’s my standard answer:

First, study hard and get as good grades as you can, then apply to a good college. When you get there, study hard and get as good grades as you can, then apply to a good law school. Study hard at law school and get hired by a good law firm or public agency. Then do your best work so that when you apply for a judgeship people will think you’re capable and will want to support you.

But I have a confession to make. I didn’t always try my best in school. Not at law school, not in college, and certainly not in high school.

My lack of a studious nature in high school came up in a Twitter exchange I had with That Crazy Redhead. She was trying to encourage writers, but my response went in a different direction:

Algebra Tweet

My algebra travails are true. I got a C in my first semester of high school algebra and an incomplete for my second semester grade. That meant I had to make up the incomplete or it became an F.

I never made up the incomplete.

I got an F.

I flunked high school algebra.

But I Didn’t End Up Living In A Van Down By The River

Flunking algebra did not lead to a life of ruin and despair, no matter what Chris Farley might have said about ending up LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!

Instead, I ended up at a good college, I got into a good law school, and I tried to be a good attorney. It worked out because when I applied for a judgeship there were people who were willing to support me and write letters recommending me for the position.

This is really different from my walk with God, though.

God didn’t look at my life’s transcripts or my work record to decide whether I should be admitted to his kingdom. It’s a good thing, too, because my life was nowhere near worthy of him.

Paul might as well have been writing about me personally when he said:

Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:3-7.)

I was dead, spiritually dead. It wasn’t a matter of trying hard and still not being good enough. Dead is dead.

But God’s grace is rich, and while I was dead he made me alive in Jesus. How rich is that grace? God has not only made me alive but has raised me up and seated me with Jesus in heaven.

Our heavenly Father has already seated me with his Son? Yes, and that seat is on a throne that exceeds by an infinite measure any that has ever been seen in any earthly palace.

It sounds better than sitting in a van down by the river. It’s even better than sitting on the bench in my courtroom.

So really, flunking high school algebra is not the end of the world.


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15 Responses to Flunking High School Algebra Is Not The End Of The World

  1. nmcdonal says:

    How about flunking second semester Hebrew? #almostthere

  2. My daughter didn’t pass the 11+, a kind of IQ test that some kids do in England (it’s only in certain areas). If you pass, you get to go to the grammar school (a school for the top 20% or so). If you don’t, the only other alternative locally is a really bad secondary school. She missed by one mark. I was shocked at first. It hadn’t really occurred to me that she might not pass. She’s definitely well within the top 20% according to her school work.

    We had to decide whether it was worth appealing, or whether there were other possibilities, so I looked at other schools, all at least half an hour away. We found one that seemed to get excellent results at 16 and at 18 (the ages we sit exams in England). It is a relaxed yet respectful, happy school, with enough emphasis on each child fulfilling her potential that I now think that our dear little Fluff will be far happier there, and thus achieve more, than she ever would have at the grammar school. I am so glad that we prayed beforehand and gave it all over to God! Can’t believe I will have two children in secondary school in September, though. That makes me officially old o_O

    • Tim says:

      It sounds like your family found a great way to deal with what looked like a setback but in reality is a wonderful opportunity for your daughter, Sandy.

  3. Jeannie says:

    That’s great, Tim — what a relief to know that our transcript and resume don’t make a difference in our relationship with Jesus! Imagine God picking up the Big White Phone and calling our references ……

    • Tim says:

      Now you’ve got me imagining what that phone call would be like. Instead of learning more about us from our references, God would be filling them in on all the things they don’t know about us. I’d never get another reference in my life!

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    I love that Chris Farley skit. And we really do put so much pressure on the kids to be perfect at everything! Thanks for pointing to the perfect One who is perfecting us, as well as sharing your humbling Algebra grade. It puts things in perspective!

  5. Roni says:

    I cannot recall the last time algebra was required to get me through a single incident in my life. I did pass it; all the while wondering why…I majored in English to avoid math because..well, I speak English; who speaks math?

    • Tim says:

      I have some friends who speak math. At lead I assume it’s math because it sure doesn’t sound like English when they talk about certain subjects.

  6. I barely made it through high school algebra, and took a bright, shiny D in geometry. And then I homeschooled my kids, and had to go through the material three more times. I think I’ve finally mastered basic algebra. The jury (pun intended) is still out on whether four trips through geometry made any of it stick in my math-resistant brain.

    • Tim says:

      If it were me, the info would stick only long enough to get my kids through it and then it would slip out through that math-sized hole in my brain.

      Remember The World’s Best Homework Club I wrote about a while back? My wife sometimes calls me into service, helping the kids with maps, writing, vocabulary. Never for math. Never.

  7. Mary Anne says:

    It’s a weird thing, but I was worse than dreadful at algebra and then the next year I sailed through geometry like a Klingon slam-dancer. I was doing so much better that after a couple of grading periods my teacher took me aside and asked me “Who are you and what have you done with Mary Anne?!” 8-D Geometry just made sense to me and I’ve heard the same thing with other people–lots of incidents of flunking algebra and acing geometry, or the other way around. I guess it goes back to what Paul said about not all people have all gifts . . .

    I think it was Lewis Grizzard who wrote that it’s not wonder young people don’t trust older people because we insist they learn things like algebra. He wrote about pleading, “I’ll never need this!” and they’d reply, “Oh, you never know.” His response was “I knew then and I know now. In all my life, not once has algebra ever come up.” You tell ’em, Lewis.

    I usually growl about periods of suffering and trial in my life as being like algebra: people say that “someday you’re going to need this” but somehow I never do. *crabcake face*

    • Tim says:

      I was the same way, MA. Flunked algebra but got a B in geometry. Then in college I aced my Probability and Statistics course. Crabcake face indeed for algebra!

  8. Pingback: The 911 Call That’s As Simple As 1-2-3 | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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