Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Death of the Good Girl
I was always a good girl. A rule follower. I took great pleasure in finding out what I was supposed to be doing and then doing it. Of course, as a kid, I had my moments. I had siblings, and we would fight. I would pinch them or hit them ever-so-slightly. (Real hitting was not allowed at our house.) I told my mom I hated her once when I was about six. I learned what soap tasted like after that. I was not perfect, but I liked obeying the rules. But I especially liked the recognition I felt when I did what I was supposed to do. I liked the approval. The pats on the back. And since kids are little legalists anyway, it all fit right into my worldview. The people who do good things are good people, and they should be loved and blessed. The people who do bad things are bad people, and they should not be loved and blessed. And though it was not always so black and white, this point-of-view carried me throughout more of my life than I care to admit. It just felt true.
One of the great problems with this belief system is that at some point, we are all bound to fail. Some of us in small, easily-hidden ways, but some of us choose more public failures. And that is where things unravel. Those failures are the things that send us spiraling downward until we begin to believe that we are actually one of the bad people. And that's where I found myself in the summer of 2007. Because of the story I told you about here, I had resigned my job as a Christian school teacher. I had moved out of the little house I shared with my husband. I moved into a temporary living space provided to me by a local church. The little town in which I lived seemed to be buzzing about my failure. Friends overheard people talking about it in restaurants. There was nowhere that I could hide. Everyone knew. I had friends that would not speak to me. In an instant, I had lost everything. It felt like my identity as a good girl was erased in this bad decision. All of those years of behaving were dead and gone.
One day I came home, and I found a card on my door. I did not recognize the handwriting, and I was a little afraid. It's a curious thing that sometimes people use your failures as the time to point out all of the negative they saw in you from the beginning. I had experienced that already, and I was afraid that this would be more of the same. I opened the card and cried as I read what was printed "If you ever forget how wonderful you are- Call me and I'll remind you". My eyes scanned the page for a signature, and I recognized the name of a woman I barely knew. Sharon Newman was a member of the church I had been attending, and we had met face-to-face just a few times. To the side of the pre-printed message of the card, she had handwritten in beautiful cursive these words.
God's opinion of us is revealed in the truth of His Word. Our identity and position in Him is declared like this:
We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
We are precious to God (Isaiah 43:4)
We are cared about since our conception (Isaiah 46:3)
We are Jesus' friend (John 15:15)
We are chosen by Jesus (John 15:16)
We are dearly loved by God (John 16:27)
We are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
We are a temple, a dwelling place of God's Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)
We are redeemed and forgiven of all our sins (Colossians 1:14)
Thankfully, our circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with God's ability to fulfill His Word. He is always sovereign, always!
Then she signed her name and gave me two contact numbers, which I was always too embarrassed to call. But, of course, as I read, I cried at the reminder of what God had spent almost a decade teaching me. My worth and acceptance was not wrapped up in my performance. It was not contingent on how well I followed the rules. It was initiated and sustained in the fact that God created, loved, and saved me. And maybe I had failed, but the failure didn't define how God saw me. His truth defined me. And his truth was unchangeable. Unshakeable. And it still is.
Last night, I got an message from a friend that was struggling with this, and I was happy that I could walk into the spare bedroom and pick up my little card to use in our conversation. Maybe one day I will, but for now, I can't throw it away. It's a reminder of where I have been and who I have been. It's a reminder that someone was willing to speak the truth into my failure and let me know that I am loved. And it's my reminder that I am responsible to do the same for other people. So there it is, the truth about us. Rest in it. Stop trying so hard. Forgive yourself when you scream at your kids. Don't beat yourself up over the messy house. Don't carry around the weight of your past failures. Let the good girl die. And let the truth live on.