I never thought I’d share this. At the time, it felt like the biggest failure of my entire life. I was ashamed to talk about it.
It all started with my getting accepted to a top university in Germany. I was so excited! I gathered the necessary documents and applied for a student visa at the German embassy in Ukraine. While waiting for the visa, I also needed to gather documents for my enrollment in the university.
One of the prerequisites of enrollment was a proof of German at the level C1 – the advanced level. On the university website they said that those who took German as part of their IB Program in high school did not have to provide any further documents. So I did not give it much thought until I got an email from the university.
The email said that I indeed needed a separate, other than high school, certificate to prove my German knowledge. On the website they meant that only those students who took IB German on a native level, not as a second language, were exempt from the exam. However, when both my dad and I where looking at the university website, we found it to be ambiguous about what type of German class would qualify.
Now in order for me to be enrolled I had to pass a German exam held at my university in Berlin just a few weeks before classes would start. And the exam was less than a week away! I was in a panic. I was not prepared!
Being an excellent student in high school and always being prepared became part of my identity. I was the good student. I always did my homework, submitted assignments, and was prepared for the tests. But this time I was not prepared!
So I tried to pull it all together in just a few days. However, language is not something you can really improve just overnight like studying history or something else that just requires memory. But I still tried to do my best to prepare.
So my parents booked me a ticket to Berlin and I flew there the next morning. I was to take intensive German classes for a few days leading up to the exam and do some past papers. I prepared as much as I could and tried to pull it all together in just a few days.
The exam day came. The exam lasted for a few hours, and we took at least one break in between. The exam was really hard, especially the German grammar part. But I did my best and decided not to worry about it until the results came. I was positive about it. I always passed exams in high school. Surely I would pass this one too. So I put it out of my mind and went on with my life hoping for the best.
The university was about to start and I was excited about my new life in Berlin! I got the school supplies and would spend hours watching videos on YouTube on the perfect folders and notebooks to choose for university. I went to the introductory week and made my first friends. The first week was pretty light, older students showed us how everything worked, and we played interactive games to get to know each other.
Everything seemed to be going great until I got my exam results back. I did not pass. And that meant that I would not be able to be enrolled in the university.
I was in shock. I worked so hard in high school and passed all my IB exams. It seemed unfair. But what was most confusing was that I thought it was God’s will for me to study in Berlin. That’s what it seemed like at least. I did not understand God at that moment. Didn’t He tell me to come to Berlin to study? Didn’t He provide a church for me here?
I told my parents about what happened, and we decided that it would be best for me to stay in Berlin and do intensive language learning instead so that I could pass the TestDaf German language exam and not have to take the exam at the university for next year’s enrollment. So that’s what I did.
I learned something really important through that failure. I was placing my identity in my performance. In my mind my worth was based on how well I did in school. That was the reason people respected me. That was the reason teachers loved me.
But when I met Jesus I realized that I should derive my primary identity from being a child of God. That’s where my true worth and value comes from. God loves me, regardless of whether I pass an exam or not.
And going though that failure really helped me to stop placing my identity in my performance and start placing it in being a child of God. God loved me for who I was, not for what I did.
To earn acceptance from people, we first have to do something. But it’s different with God. He first accepts us into His family, and then He helps us to make those changes in our lives.
We change not to earn His love, but to express our love for Him.
Read Chapter 15 here.