Sunday, November 29, 2015

Confessions of a Good Girl

Seen outside a Tanzanian church.  Source here

Growing up, I was the poster child for Good Christian Girls.

Straight-A student?  Check.
Never listen to Madonna or watch 90210?  Check, check.
Don't drink, smoke, or chew, or go with boys who do?  Check, check, check.
I tutored inner-city kids.  I helped to lead a Bible club for disabled teens.  My ambition was to become a missionary, for crying out loud.  I was oozing with goodness.

I've always liked rules.  Following them gives me a sense of control, a feeling of success, and eliminates pesky guilt.  Just tell me what to do, and I'll do it.  I follow the speed limit.  I recycle.  I stay off the grass.  And for a long time, following the rules is how I tried to live out Christianity.

Until I started to realize that it really was just a big show.  I could be very good at putting on that happy, cheerful, servant-leadership face, while all the while I had a selfish spirit, sense of superiority, and sometimes downright hate snarling around in my heart.  Mix that together with a strong fear of people's opinions and a good dose of anxiety, and you don't have a very pretty picture.  To my horror, sometimes these attitudes even slipped out for other people to see.

There's nothing worse for a Good Girl to realize than that she's really not all that good after all.  There's not a lot of options at that point.  What was I supposed to do?  Hide it?  Try harder?  Suppress the guilt?  Do penance?  None of those things are very satisfying.  And they certainly don't fix the problem.

And no, I didn't have a harsh upbringing, and I didn't attend a legalistic church.  I actually grew up as a pretty happy person.  I just knew that there was a big disconnect between the person I showed to the world, and who I actually was.

Thankfully, the truth of Grace swept into my life in college.  It was something I had known all my life; it had been staring me right in the face, but I had looked in a thousand other directions before I fell deeply into it's glory.

And oh!  What a blessed relief, what a glorious rest, to slowly come to the realization that I was not only saved by grace, but sustained by grace, and held by grace.  Following the rules may have spared me a lot of heartache, but they did not, could not, change my heart.

I'm glad I came to this understanding before getting married, because being a wife and a mom has just reinforced what a wretchedly awful person I am capable of being.  At the beginning, I desperately yearned for a checklist of rules that would make me a good wife and mom, but as time went on, I was really glad there wasn't.  I would have failed miserably.

Readers have often commented to me that they are thankful...surprised, maybe?...at my honesty about my weaknesses and failings.  But the truth is, I am tired of being seen as the Good Girl.  Been there, done that.  It's impossible, and it's exhausting.  I would much, much rather live in grace.

Living in grace means that when I screw up, I'm not only forgiven, but I have the power to change.   It means reveling in the joy of knowing that I never have to earn God's favor--I already have it.  It's means that when I do something right, it's all because of Him.  If there's anything good that comes out of me, it's because I have first breathed in His grace.

So why then should I be afraid of being open about who I really am?  I, in myself, am nothing.  I, on my own, am just a show.  I would not, could not, ever have been good enough.  There's something deeply vulnerable about blogging, about putting myself out there for anyone to see....and criticize.  But I remind myself that if anyone does think negatively about me, well, it's probably true anyway.  If I am living in grace, I have nothing to fear.

If I let you think I'm that Good Girl, then it is only Amy Medina who gets the attention.  I'm just another really great, religious rule-follower who makes the rest of humanity feel bad about themselves.  No wonder the world would mock me if I fell.  But if I let you see who I really am, then--and only then--can you see the gospel at work in my life.  Only then can you possibly see Jesus.

And that's pretty much what grace is all about.  What I'm all about.


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