This past Wednesday was a monumental day for a big portion of the Japanese population.  It was the day that most of the 3rd year junior high-schoolers found out the results of their high-school entrance exams.  These test results determine whether or not they can get into the public high school they have applied for.  For many families, who cannot afford to send their children to private schools, the results of these tests determine whether the child will attend high school at all. So basically, these tests are life-changing events; they deeply influence (and can even set) the course of the student’s remaining life. And naturally, this all makes for a lot of stress for everyone–students, parents, teachers, and friends.

Japanese male student

Mike and I have gotten the opportunity to learn about this experience “up close,” so to speak.  We hadn’t realized how much we were emotionally invested in this whole procedure until Wednesday rolled around.  Mike and I have been praying for the daughter of a dear friend here in Japan.  We were praying that she would be accepted into high school, as her family could not afford to send her to a private school.  Our friend’s summary in an email she sent depicts that long-awaited moment of finally hearing the test results — the climax of a long, grueling process that can result in utter disappointment or heart-bursting triumph.

I didn’t realize how much I’d been holding it all in until moments before we got to the wall where the numbers were posted.  I started walking faster than Keiko–almost running–and she had to tug at me from behind.  And my eyes frantically searched those numbers, looking for 400, 450, 480…488…and I found myself saying out loud, “It’s there!”  Keiko screamed too and jumped up and down, threw her hands in the air, was saying over and over, “Really?!  Is that really my number?!”  and “I can’t believe it!  I can’t believe it!”  I found tears coming to my eyes, and I told her to look as many times as she wanted, to check to her heart’s content.  “Oh, this is bad; I think I’m going to burst!”, she kept saying.  Keiko kept doing this even when we left the school and were walking down the sidewalk, in full view of those who happened to be on the road.  “Yabai yo, Yabai yo,” she kept saying.  She was so happy she could’ve burst, the whole world could’ve thought her crazy, and she didn’t care.  I mean, she was walking down the sidewalk even throwing her arms up in the air. “I passed! I can’t believe I passed!”

God so graciously answered the prayers of our friend’s heart — praise Him!

In a later email, our friend shared how even in the midst of the joy of getting into high school, there is mingled sadness for others who have not passed:

I wonder if you’d know how Keiko felt when she saw “487” wasn’t there…it was the number of the schoolmate right before Keiko WHOM SHE WAS SURE WAS WAY SMARTER THAN HERSELF, and had been aiming for the #1 school.  And we just got news today that another friend didn’t make it.

Japanese female student

These are intense and engrossing times, and so it’s easy to forget God ‘s hand in all of this. But the truth is, God has a plan for each and every one of those kids, and He is not hindered in the least by weak, human contingencies like test results. Whether or not they get into the high school they want (or if they go to high school at all), they are unique, valuable, and priceless. Their lives are so much more than just getting into a respected school so they can get a stable job and collect empty material possessions. They each have a big, exciting, and unique adventure that God is calling them to. And tha t’s part of why we want to spend our lives here, to share this good news of the truly “abundant life” that Christ offers.

Who would settle for anything less?

-Mike & Jen