|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.