Saying Goodbye to the Good Girl

“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another.” ~William Shakespeare

There once was a girl who crashed into grace headlong. Where once she had been a hapless, hopeless wretch of a girl – she was filled with hope and then joy, wonder . . . LIFE. And that girl grew into a young woman who tried to find her way in the world, tried to know God more and discover her purpose. She often got off track as wanderers often do. Over time the girl began to lose a little bit of the wonder. She lost sight of the joy and began to focus on the rules. She wanted to be loved, as lovers often do, and she wanted a safe and happy life. She tried to work out a deal with God, which was a one-sided deal indeed, “I will be a good girl as long as you give me a good, safe life.”

So she turned from the girl who crashed into grace to become the good girl. The dependable girl, the girl who doesn’t drink, doesn’t dance, reads only the “right” things, wouldn’t utter a curse word . . . She was sure this would work. It had to. Bad things don’t really happen to good people, do they?

Do they?

So the good girl married. She now tried to be the good wife, but this was a little trickier. Expectations made good a hard thing to attain. She found it difficult to be good all the time in front of another person and sometimes the real girl would slip out a little and make a mess of things. She tried harder to clean well, cook well, make her man happy. She was a good worker, a good friend, a good church member, and then she became a good mother, too. Although this also made being the good girl even more difficult. Good girls don’t admit they’re terrified and overwhelmed to the point of no return. Good girls don’t wonder if they’re cut out for this.

Nine years rolled by and things seemed pretty good. Life was pretty stable. Safe. Everything seemed to be lining up just like it was supposed to when the unthinkable happened. The bottom fell out. The good girl’s life as she knew it went up in smoke and she fell apart. Before she knew what had happened, the good girl didn’t look so good anymore. Good girls aren’t divorced single parents of three small kids.

The good girl threw her hands up in frustration and then crumpled to the floor in grief. It wasn’t fair. She had worked to hard to keep it together. “Didn’t we have a deal, God?!” she wondered aloud. Silence. There wasn’t ever any deal, just grace that was always sufficient for her. She looked around at her messy, messy life and began to understand that all along she had been touting the line of “salvation through Jesus by grace alone” while working her way into heaven. This would not do.

Over the years, the good girl had become a weighty thing, heavy and oppressive. It was hard to move let alone dance or run, and the girl wanted to do both. Layer by layer, she shed the image of the good girl – killing her slowly by starving her of the “good deeds” and habits she relied upon so heavily to keep the image intact. Little by little, the good girl began to disappear. What was underneath it all was a mess, but a beautiful mess.

As the good girl took her last rasping breath, the real girl stepped forward. The real girl, again, crashed headlong into grace. She is prodigal, unfiltered, a little flighty at times, risky and a risk all her own. Yet she loves fiercely and fights hard. The real girl found courage and passion, mercy and mystery. She understands that God is not to be tamed or to make deals with. He is.

Welcome to the world, real girl.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings

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