Spiritual test prep?

The ACT was looming, and I was feeling extreme pressure to get a good score. This standardized, three-hour test includes sections on math, reading, English, and science, and the resulting score is heavily considered during the college admissions process in the United States, where I live. It felt like how well I did on the test would play a huge role in determining my future.

I’ve attended Christian Science Sunday School since I was little, so I’ve learned to view God and prayer as my “first aid” in times of trouble. In the past, I’d often turned to prayer when I was sick or hurt, but I’d rarely prayed about feeling stressed. As I was studying for the test, though, it suddenly hit me that I could pray about the ACT. 

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While it felt like my success was entirely dependent on me, I knew from what I’d learned in Christian Science that I am actually God’s expression—the expression of all God’s qualities, including intelligence and insight. I love the spiritual definition of intelligence in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Substance; self-existent and eternal Mind; that which is never unconscious nor limited” (p. 588). As I thought about this, I realized that my ability to perform well on this test wasn’t fueled by brainpower or an understanding of academic concepts, but by my expression of unlimited divine intelligence—of the one true Mind, God. 

It felt like how well I did on the test would play a huge role in determining my future. 

As I prayed with these ideas, I was comforted. But it was hard to put complete trust in them. In the back of my mind, I was still distracted by the fear that this score could determine my future. At the same time, while I knew it was right to prepare by studying, it felt like I was putting my faith in my personal preparations rather than in God.

This continued until one day when I opened Science and Health and read, “The mere habit of pleading with the divine Mind, as one pleads with a human being, perpetuates the belief in God as humanly circumscribed,—an error which impedes spiritual growth” (p. 2). This woke me up to what I had been doing. Rather than praying to grow in spiritual understanding or to express more freedom in test-taking, I found myself just pleading with God for a high score. 

So I stopped and listened for God’s direction on how to think differently. It became clear to me that I should go back to the Christian Science basics I’d learned in early Sunday School classes. One of these ideas was to turn away from whatever seemed to be trying to get my attention (in this case, the fear of not getting a high score) and to focus on what was spiritually true (unlimited intelligence). This wasn’t about ignoring my fear but about leaning into what was real. I knew that as I did this, the fear would disappear.

As I began to look at my preparations as opportunities to express spiritual qualities, all the stress vanished.

After that, every time I picked up a book to start studying or flipped to a practice test to prepare, I would affirm what I was actually doing in that moment: being the expression of God. And as I began to look at my preparations as opportunities to express spiritual qualities, all the stress vanished.

On the day of the test, instead of feeling fear and anxiety, I actually felt calm and had a clear sense of God’s guidance. And as the test progressed, I remembered to pause multiple times to acknowledge my gratitude for God, Mind. 

When I got my score, I was happy with the results. But I also realized that the spiritual growth I’d experienced through the test prep process was the real blessing. No matter what score I’d ended up with, I’d gained something so much bigger: more confidence that God is the source of my intelligence and is always taking care of me.

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