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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Exams (07/26/04)

TITLE: Final Exam
By Donna J. Shepherd


I’d read and re-read everything I’d marked with an asterisk, highlighted, or circled in my textbook. My eyes felt gritty from the strain. The time for my final exam in Pneumatology had arrived.

I asked a teacher named Ellen from the church I attended to be my proctor, and reserved one of the conference rooms at the library for the event.

I showed up early and the librarian ushered me through the main library to a small, windowless room. I dug out my textbook and attempted to cram even more information into my cramped brain.

Ellen came into the room with the envelope containing my exam. She took out more pages than I anticipated. How many questions would I have to answer? At that moment, I could think of only one thing I knew for sure about Pneumatology – I should have studied more.

Next she handed me a paper with what looked like a thousand boxes to fill in. All the panic I felt the last time I took an exam came flooding back. Who turned the heat up in this room?

Ellen must have sensed my distress, and offered to do something no other teacher had ever done. “Donna, do you mind if I pray for you?”

While she prayed, I calmed down and tried to remember why I ever decided to take this course.

I picked a freshly sharpened pencil up in my sweaty hand, turned the exam over, and the clock began ticking.

Who decided these blocks needed to be so small? And I’m sure someone dimmed the lights. It’s definitely too dark in here.

I pulled my reading glasses down off the top of my head, squinted at the first question, and began. Have I made a mark with my pencil? How can I tell?

I’ve gotten used to a lot of noise and activity going on around me. The room I sat in seemed much too quiet. Thump. Thump. Thump…what’s that sound? I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears.

When I finished the exam, I stared at the lead markings undulating across the page like a snake. Should I go back to check my answers? Such an idea seemed overwhelming.

“Here.” I shoved the paper across the table toward Ellen. “Take it before I go back and start changing everything.”

“Well, did you get all the right answers?” Ellen asked.

“Are you kidding?” I threw my hands up. “I didn’t even understand the questions.”

Ellen patted my shoulder as we walked out of the library. “I’m sure you did great. I’ll mail this off, and you’ll see.”

Two weeks later, I held the sealed envelope that contained my test results. I thought, “This was my first exam in thirty years. What was I thinking?”

With shaking hands, I opened the envelope. Even though I knew the grade had already been given, as I unfolded the letter I prayed a quick prayer, “Lord, please don’t let me fail.”

I stared at the grade. An 85 percent. Yes!

When I felt led of the Lord to go back to school for a degree in Theology, I thought it would be easy. I’d made practically all A’s in high school.

Who knew thirty years could make such a difference? I can’t see as well, I don’t comprehend as quickly, and I don’t retain as much. Or do I? It might not be an A I held in my hand, but I’d take a B this time.

Perhaps with God’s help, this old gal will do fine in college after all!

Donna J. Shepherd

Member Comments
Member Date
darlene hight08/02/04
Excellent entry and congratulations on being courageous enough to go back to school.
Deborah Anderson08/02/04
Great story Donna! Thank you and God bless.
Dian Moore08/02/04
How brave of you to go back to school. Well written and definitely made my top ten list.
PaulDawn Dawn 08/13/04
Hey Donna ... that is super!!

Paul - Hill Country Thoughts