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? 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.


K M said...

Yes! I remember you as the Good Girl in high school and meeting you in math class. I thought it was our freshman year, but it looks like it was our sophomore year. (My oldest is now that age!) I respected you for being God-fearing in high school. I was fairly much a Good Girl too, but also had many shortcomings then and still do. There is a lot of wisdom in following God's laws. It is easy to see the blessings in life from following Him and His ways and not the world's ways. My only regrets during those growing up years were the ones where I didn't follow God's Word even closer. Thankful for the grace of God in our lives. I really enjoy reading your blog. Interesting, truthful and encouraging. Thank you for sharing.

Amy Medina said...

Thanks, Kathy. I hope our lives cross in person again someday!