This summer, I am participating in an online book club for Emily P. Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life. The title itself was enough to lure me in. Then Christin recommended it to me after I tweeted about my personal testimony blog post, so I bought it with money from Mother’s Day (my husband knows me well, he gave me an Amazon gift card!). Soon after, Emily announced that she would be hosting a summer book club of her book. I thought that would be a great way to make me read slowly and actually process the book rather than devouring it in a week per my usual method of attack.
So here I am, week one of the book club. We’ve read Chapter 1-3, and this is what I’ve learned about myself:
A Little Background
Much like Emily, I’ve always viewed myself a “good girl”. As a child, I got good grades, the only thing I got in trouble for at school was talking too much, did my homework without fighting, wanted to go to church, etc. Following that trend in high school, I did not drink, smoke, cuss, or sleep around with boys. I even made my first boyfriend wait almost 2 months to kiss me. I was a good girl. I was safe. I was praised for it. This behavior was expected from me, but behind the good girl exterior was a lot of pride in self and fear.
I wish I could say that my “good girl” behavior stemmed from a deep desire to serve the Lord and honor Him with my life. I do think it was true to an extent, but lurking underneath that “church” answer was fear. Fear manifested itself in two ways: fear of negative consequences and fear of losing my reputation and identity.
Fear of Negative Consequences
Failing to be a good girl has consequences. I did not want to drink for fear of becoming an alcoholic. I did not want to have sex for fear of getting an STD or pregnant. Let’s not even start in on fear of disappointing my parents. I still struggle with that one today.
I won’t lie, sometimes I wished I could just forget all the rules and have fun like those around me, but fear of the consequences stopped me. I’m thankful for the grace that even though my motives weren’t always right, God protected me. However, gradually, pride and a “better than” attitude built up in me. I saw myself as better than others who weren’t so “good” and claimed glory of my “goodness” for myself. At least in my head that is. Outwardly, I said all the right Christian things.
Fear of Losing my Reputation
I began to connect my identity with the good girl reputation rather than Christ. With my identity tied up in my behavior and others’ view of me, I feared messing up and changing those things. Who would I be if I wasn’t the “good girl”?
At the end of my senior year of high school I spent the day out at a lake with some friends. After we got back into town, we decided to shower and meet each other for dinner and hang out that night. After dinner, we went out to the river. Before I had really registered what was going on, the other girls were drinking, we were surrounded by cops, and one of my friends was throwing the car keys at me.
Fear instantly gripped me. Not only because I could be arrested and sent to jail (I was 18), but also because of what other people were going to think of me. I was about to graduate as valedictorian of my class. Would the school take away my honor? Everyone at church would find out. What were they going to think of me? Who would I be without my perfectly intact “never done anything wrong” good girl image?
Getting to the Root of Things
The root of all of that fear was pride. Still is pride. I still struggle daily with pride. Pride in my good girl image. Pride in my independent attitude that I can do this life thing just fine on my own. Thank you very much. Just writing this post has been an immense struggle. Saying it out loud. Putting it out there. That’s humbling.
But making life choices based out of fear is not my heart’s desire. God does not desire that for me either. My heart wants to love Jesus with everything I’ve got and let the chips fall where they may. Thankfully perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Christ’s love in me will drive away those fears and allow me to live a free life.
Right now God is calling me (and you) to let go of the good girl reputation (or whatever sort of reputation you are clinging to). Let go of the fear that enslaves you. But fear lingers still.
Emily writes, “I want to let go, rest, and believe, so that he can hold, refresh, and redeem. But what if I do and he doesn’t? To read between the lines of faith is to see Jesus. But reading between the lines takes work and invisible trust and disregard for feeling.” That pinpoints my feelings in the last few weeks exactly.
Okay, but how?
Isn’t that the nitty gritty? We read, say, and think these truths, but how do we DO them? (James 1:22) I’m not sure. Right now, taking it day by day. Lots of prayer. Remembering times Christ has been faithful in the past. Confession. Acknowledging that I need the Lord.
Do you struggle with fear? What sort of reputation are you clinging to?
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Photo Credit: Demi Burke