You are not just a number (a message for those getting GCSE results)

Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) is  one of the lead characters in the Netflix blockbuster series, Stranger Things.  Taken from her mum and used partly for experimentation and partly as an anti-Soviet weapon due to her psychokinetic powers, Eleven loses her birth name and becomes known by the number tattooed onto her. It enables the lab where she is held to de-humanise her. When she escapes, her head is shaven and she knows minimal language. A significant part of the story is about Eleven rediscovering her humanity as her hair grows, she acquires clothes, watches TV etc and builds relationships with others.  This starts with her first friends choosing to know her as El instead of eleven. She acquires a name.

You are more than a number. It’s important to remember this on GCSE results day.  You may well feel that you’ve become a statistic, which percentile have you and your school fallen into? How do your cohort’s grades compare with previous years?  In fact, the switch to numbered grades from the old A*- G may increase that sense of being a number.  Are you an 8 or even a 9 or just a 4? You may feel as though you’ve been reduced to how you’ve done against your target grades. 

Of course those numbers matter. They matter to teachers who are measured by how well the school has done and they matter to Sixth Forms and potential employers. They matter to you as well because you’ve worked hard for them.  I hope you’ve achieved what you wanted to and needed to. We should not be so reductionist as to suggest these results don’t matter at all.  They do matter and that’s why we are congratulating and commiserating today.  However, whilst they are not unimportant, as I said on A-Level results day, they are not the all consuming life defining, unalterable things that we sometimes make them out to be.

You and your life are about so much more than how you’ve performed in your exams. Your life is about much more than the grades you achieve. That’s because you have a God who is your Father. This is the God who made you in his image, who knows you by name and who loves you.  It is because of this that you can  enjoy good results today without becoming arrogant and be sad, disappointed even at results that were not what you expected or needed without collapsing into despair.  Your identity in Christ is what gives you a healthy perspective on life.

Remember, you are not just a number. He knows you by name.

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