i've always been a good girl. since i can remember, i never really got into trouble, was always compliant, always followed the rules. i was responsible, logical, mature, could be counted on.
i think i was naturally this way, but after awhile, and after seeing the negative consequences that could come from doing the opposite, i began to relish the attention i gained from peers and adults. i loved being the good girl. i didn't want to be that naive and silly good girl though. i wanted people to know that i knew about all that bad stuff that was out there, and was choosing to be good because i knew it was more responsible.
i began to believe that i could manage people's image of me. i became an "image manager" [not my term, leslie taught me that one]. it was comfortable even though it had me deceived, and i believed it was working. i'm not saying that i wasn't really that responsible person, or that i was faking it. no, i really was that person. but it began to make up my entire identity and if anyone ever thought any differently, or didn't notice how good i was, i would have to make sure they realized it right away.
i worked at TGI Fridays in college, before i got married. my coworkers called me "virgin mary". i was a christian, went to church on sunday, i didn't drink, i didn't smoke, i didn't have sex with my long term boyfriend, i didn't cuss, i didn't hang out with them on the weekends. i loved that they noticed that. part of me was thinking what a great testimony i was being, and the other part was just glad to get the attention. i needed everyone to believe i was a good girl. somehow i figured if other people noticed, it might convince God too.
because let's be honest... as good as our behavior may be, our hearts are still ugly. when we really examine them against God's Word, they're full of bitterness, pride, greed. none of that measures up to His holy and perfect standard. He looks at the heart, but i wasn't concerned with that. if people could think i was good, that was enough [for awhile]. and that became everything to me. the more i realized i wasn't all that good, the more i held on to this image for dear life, the more driven i became to make it true. [the less i wanted to know authentic Truth, because it revealed all my ugliness.]
maybe no one noticed i was this way, always managing their opinion of me, always trying to let them see only the good, responsible, wise parts of me? but maybe i was really never fooling anyone... i can't answer that for everyone else. it's tricky because that responsible wise person really is who i am. i'm not that rebellious by nature. i can usually just go with the flow, follow the rules, and that's natural and easy for me. the issue is that the flawless image became my obsession. that became my goal instead of allowing God to be glorified in my weakness. instead of being human. instead of letting on that i was hopelessly broken and desperately in need of Him all the time... i wanted to be known for having it all together. for being the one you could come to for sound advice and wise counsel.
the problem with this facade is it comes with a huge dark side that constantly nags and accuses and buries you in shame because you never measure up to your own standards. your rules and your goals and your image are constantly at war with who you really are inside: broken, human, imperfect. you're never good enough. you're always ashamed of your lack of goodness... and you assume that God thinks you're not good enough, and you assume He's ashamed of you too. in a sense, you've created your own religion with all the lies you've bought into and all the standards you put in place to measure yourself [and others] by...
this was the religion i practiced and the god i worshiped for a very long time. one who, i believed, was only concerned with how good i seemed to others, how i didn't make him look bad, what i abstained from, how often i went to church, how often i read my Bible, how often i prayed. and unfortunately, if he was concerned with those things, i was failing miserably at any given time, in any given area. the god i worshiped would roll his eyes and get frustrated anytime i made a mistake. he was not patient and was definitely going to give up on me sooner or later.... he probably already had.
but that's not the God i know now. His Word, the only authentic Truth, tells us that:
He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. He is love. He knows how i was formed and He remembers that i am dust. [psalm 103: 13-14]
He says He will never give up on me. that He will complete the work He started. no eye-rolling or throwing in the towel. discipline and correction, yes. but never giving up. [phil. 1:6]
His Grace [something i still haven't completely grasped in all its fullness] is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness [2 corinthians 12:9]
in all my weakness and shortcoming, He already loves me, already chose me, already accepted me. [deut. 7:6 deut. 14:2 isaiah 41:9 john 15:19 ephesians 1:11-12 romans 15:7]
He says i'm fearfully and wonderfully made... in my human-ness, just as i am. [psalm 139:14]
He never required me to be perfect. He knew i could never do it, so He did it in my place. now He just wants me. exactly as i am. [hebrews 10:14-17]
He says "come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and i will give you rest"... he doesn't tell us to clean up our act first, to have it all figured out first. [matthew 11:28-29]
He wants true repentance. He wants a broken and contrite heart. [psalm 51:17 isaiah 66:2]
He wants us, just as we are, in all our frailty. that's when He can work. in our weakness, then He is strong. [2 corinthians 12:10]
there is nothing we can do to earn His love or earn His approval or earn a spot in His lap. we already have it. we just have to come.
[all photos above are from alice b gardens photography on etsy]
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i've been reading Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman which exposes all these lies [in a much more eloquent and beautiful and thorough manner] and is really driving these truths home for me. i'm a recovering good girl, but definitely not fully recovered. on bad days, i still often revert back to this stale and lifeless imposter-god religion that i've invented. it helps to be reminded of the lies [Emily calls them masks], and to know i'm not alone. anyway, it's her story of being a good girl, living the "try hard life", as she calls it. different, but very much the same as mine. if you're someone who resonates with what i've written above, this is the book for you. maybe you were always the "bad girl" or the rebel? maybe you think you have to make up for it now that you're a Christian, or now that you're really trying to live like a Christian should? maybe you perform in some areas and not others. i'm sort of that way too. whatever the case may be, this is a must-read.
"As good girls, we subconsciously label ourselves as the strong ones, the responsible ones, the sweet ones, or the right ones. We try to stand tall and capable as the good Christian, the good wife, the good mom, and the good one. But Jesus is calling us to a deeper, truer, freer identity. All he wants is simply you -- minus your good works, minus your perfect attendance, minus your politeness. When you really believe that, you may discover that all you want it Jesus, simply Jesus. Not just to get into heaven or to help you be a good person or do the right thing, but to simply love and be loved by him.". [pg. 36, Grace for the Good Girl]
linking up with jami for "we encourage" :)
linking up with jami for "we encourage" :)