NOTE: I am reading the book on a Kindle-equipped device, which makes it difficult to more accurately reference excerpts from the book beyond just giving you the chapter. If anyone has a suggestion about how to be more precise in those references, I’d love to hear!
I’ll confess that I am finding this incredibly challenging. The first chapter of Emily’s book spoke to me and stirred my spirit, but I found myself struggling with the context of the next two – you see, Emily is and really has been a good girl in her life, where I have been (rather emphatically) not. It would have been easy to give in to that frustration, to persuade myself there was nothing for me in these pages (“move along, there’s nothing to see here”), that our life experiences created too great a divide, but I pushed on – and I realized that, in the end, the inner life of good girls and bad girls is remarkably similar.
Lie #1: I am worthless
Lie #2: I have value [when] I perform well
Lie #3: The only person I can ever depend on is me
These lies are universal – and if our enemy can persuade us to embrace them, his goal is accomplished and our potential is diminished. And so he works extra hard to whisper these lies into our hearts and minds at every opportunity. They certainly represent what I have believed for a very long time – so long, in fact, that a great many of my habitual responses to life and circumstances are rooted in one or more of them.
If I fail to live up to my own standard of good, I label myself a failure. I lack motivation. I become indifferent. I entertain anxiety. I snap at my children. I want to be alone. I dream of Hawaiian vacations. I wallow. But then something happens to offer a bit of encouragement, and I find the strength to redouble my efforts at goodness. I clean the house and successfully avoid the Rocky Road ice cream. Someone gives me a compliment. The weather is nice and I get a spurt of energy. I feel empowered, and so I try again. Then, I fail again. I don’t like to fail and I certainly don’t want you to know I’ve failed. And I’m embarrassed at the predictable pattern of defeat that my life has become.
– Grace for the Good Girl, Chapter 2
That pretty well sums up my internal life. The anxiety and discouragement I so often feel is tied directly to my performance – or lack of it. And pretty soon all I want is an Easy Button to push, something that will wipe the slate clean and give me a new start with people who don’t know how badly I’ve failed before. I think it’s why I adapted so well to life as a military wife – each move, each job change, allowed me to recreate myself, to start over, to do it better this time. But as the old saying goes, no matter where you go, there you are. And so the cycle repeats itself.
One of the themes of this book is the idea of hiding – that we create masks to cover our true selves and present a more acceptable face to the world. As I thought about this study this week, I realized the one I’ve really been hiding from is God. I know how absurd that sounds, but it’s true. I’ve avoided meaningful time with him – while I’ve diligently prayed for the needs and concerns of others, I’ve avoided the process of entering in and hearing from him for my own life. I’ve been in a place where the idea of the work that needs to happen in my spirit, in my heart, is too overwhelming – just thinking about it exhausts me. So I’ve hidden from God, like Adam and Eve in the garden.
Now the question is, what do I do about it?
I know too well the fruit of my current course, as I indulge thoughts and temptations I should reject. The fruit of the spirit is not exhaustion, discouragement, and bitterness. I know these things in my head. But deep down, it’s clear I still believe the lie, that I am worthless, even to God.
Psalm 139:14: “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” […] What does your soul know very well? Fear? Anxiety? Worry? Discontentment? What would it take for your soul to know love and acceptance?
Grace for the Good Girl
Discussion Questions, Chapter 2
And the answer is I just don’t know. Letting go of my expectations, making myself vulnerable, surrendering busyness and seeking stillness – these are all necessary steps I’m trying now to take. I’ve placed one tentative foot into the water. But going deep is scary – I don’t like it when I can’t see the bottom, when my feet can’t touch solid ground, and this feels a lot like that. I’m gingerly wading out, but I’m also anxiously scanning the horizon for the next big wave, prepared for retreat. I honestly have no idea what it’s going to take for me to know love and acceptance, to be able to rest – really rest – in the love of my Father, to know the security of launching myself into his arms, letting him carry me deeper than my feet can touch. As unfair as I know it is in my head, when I imagine that moment I see every person who ever let me down, every moment when I sank like a stone, sputtering and flailing, while someone looked on and let me go.
So I stand at the water’s edge, my progress ebbing and flowing with the waves, and I try to summon the courage to just… go. Jump in. With abandon.
I’m not there yet. But soon. Soon.