GETTING THE STRUCTURE RIGHT : Growing a Tree

Let me set out the structure of this book. Before I go into some specific things we can do in applying biblical principles to studies and to life in general, maybe the best place to start is to explain what we are trying to avoid.

I will use our local example of the PSLE.

In Singapore, children in the highest level of primary school go through the PSLE. It is a national examination, the stakes of which have gotten higher year after year, resulting in a stress-filled competition for children (and parents) to obtain grades high enough for entrance to a desired secondary school. I am sure that there are worldwide equivalents, at various educational levels. Take, for example, the College-Entrance Exam Day in South Korea, which alters even flight times and the opening time of the local stock market. Or the high stakes Gaokao national higher education entrance exam in China, or the Scholastic Assessment Test in America or the college entrance exam in Japan and other countries…or it could be just a Big Exam for you.

The end result is always the same. There is plenty of time spent cramming, extra tuition and supplementary classes in school, drastic reduction in time for rest, relaxation and play, escalation in costs for parents, family life (including teachers’ family life, I suspect) adversely affected, no joy factor, and stress all-round. And for the student? Whether the results are “good” or “bad” (with perfectly acceptable results sometimes seen as “bad” results depending on the viewpoint), all this is achieved with maximum pressure and very little joy.

Extrapolate that scenario for a Big Exam to life’s challenges in general. Life is, after all, one big examination (read Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life, published by Zondervan)! Like me, I am sure you don’t intend yourself or your child to go through all trials and challenges in this ineffective, stressful, and joyless way, relying only on self-effort and sweat.

I believe this was never meant to be God’s way of studying, of facing challenges or “doing life”.

Don’t you feel that the enemy has brazenly robbed families of peace and joy from right under our noses for far too long? Slyly distracting us by taking our focus off the things that really matter, and causing fear and anxiety and panic in their place?

Have you become one of those parents who are afraid to lift your foot off the pedal of self-effort because you think that things might slide downhill from there? That by letting go, you are giving up?

I’m here to tell you that if you let go only because you are letting God take over the burden of seeing you or your child through that Big Exam, any exam or life in general, that would be the best thing you could ever do.

I am not suggesting abolishing the PSLE, or doing away with tuition, or slacking off, or anything like that. Exams are a necessary part of student life. Work is involved. I am suggesting a shift in the way we look at such exams. We should use them ultimately for the student’s and the family’s real benefit. Can that be done? The answer is an unequivocal “yes”.

Going back to the structure of this book, the Lord lovingly plants us and our children by His streams of living water. What can we do on our part to grow into a healthy tree?

With the Holy Spirit’s help, there are so many things we can do.

We can do so by being rooted in His Word, growing a strong trunk with Jesus as our Strong Tower and our leaves making food by basking in His Light. Our flowers reflecting His beauty. Bringing forth fruit of the Spirit that encourage others when they see fruit, fruit embedded with seeds for the future – with His perspective of the future – and that’s eternity.

My church’s pastor once preached that if the concept of time is drawn as a continuous line from the beginning of time to eternity, our individual lives while on this earth would be represented by a dot in that timeline. Just one dot for each life.

Somehow, this idea has stuck with me. Let’s make our dot count.

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