I was brought up to believe in God. After all, it was the right thing to do.
Until one day.
That day. I read the simplistic yet beautiful words in a Billy Graham book. All of it I agreed with. All of it made sense. The views in the book were views I already held. Then, I got to the page with the prayer.
Words so unfamiliar to me. Words so distant and strange. I had never talked to God about my faith in Him. I had never told God that I believed in Him and His son. In fact, I had never talked to God at all before that day. I had never attended church either, for that matter. That's when I realized it. I realized that I didn't have a relationship with God. But I wanted one.
I read the words on the page again while at the same time scanning my memory for some moment when I had accepted Christ to be my Lord and Savior. Nope. I got nothin'.
In that moment, with the decision to talk to God about this... my life changed. Forever.
I don't have a Saul to Paul, on-the-road conversion story. I don't have a "saved from a life of drugs" testimony. And, in my early years at the first church I attended, I always felt less because of this. I always felt ineffective. I even had a Sunday School teach question my salvation and reject my experience because I couldn't remember the exact date and because she believed no one could come to Christ through a book (shows how small her God was). Testimonies were supposed to be strong. Drastic. Dare I say, dramatic?? At least, in the church I started to attend after that day with Billy Graham, a book and a prayer.
I've long since left that church in an attempt to free myself from man-made laws. 14 years ago, to be exact.
Apparently, some things have remained, though.
In the midst of this conversation a few weeks back, I heard it. I heard Him.
"That's a lie."
"That is pride."
"That is to your glory. Not Mine."
I had to switch topics in the conversation because the supernatural one going on in my head was too loud.
If you've ever had an "A-Ha!" moment or, in my case, a "DUH!" moment, then, my friend, you'd know exactly how I felt a weeks ago.
"I was a good girl."
"I didn't do anything wrong, really, before I accepted Christ."
Um... Hello? Is anyone in there, Sheri?
What a bunch of lies I had believed! I had walked on this earth harboring these thoughts... along with a dose of guilt for not having a "gritty" enough testimony. Really?
The truth penetrated my heart like the sharpest of swords.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" - Romans 3:23
Last time I looked, all means ALL. Duh.
Despite reading this and other verses on THAT day with the book and prayer.. as well as all the days that have followed on this faith journey, my head knew this truth but my heart didn't.
Somewhere in my head, man's truth became bigger, false-truth, over God's truth.
Because the truth is...
The truth is...
No matter how "good" of a girl I classified myself or the world classified me, I was still (and still am) a sinner in need of a Savior. That's Truth.
No matter how much I compared my testimony to others - each time not measuring up in drama or drastic change - I was just as broken.
Just as deserving of punishment.
Just as UN-deserving of grace and mercy....
as the drug addict. the prostitute. the murderer. the thief. the liar. the adulterer. the abuser.
This "good girl" was equal to those I had unwittingly classified as in more need of grace than me. I knew this wasn't true logically but my real beliefs - the one that could lament not having a dramatic conversion - they revealed what I was thinking somewhere in this brain of mine.
You see, by saying "I was a good girl", I implied that I didn't need that much saving. I didn't need that much grace. At least, not as much grace as others.
In believing that I was a good girl, I was saying, somewhere in my head and heart, that I. was. good. enough. I was good enough for God's grace. I had earned it.
Shameful pride is all that was. I see that now.
Unwittingly, I was clinging to a little bit of the glory that was rightly meant for God. I say unwittingly because had you asked me I would have said I wasn't good enough for God's grace. I would have said I cannot earn my salvation. My brain lived with these two opposing beliefs.
The funny thing is I'm quite certain I'm not the only one that holds these beliefs. In fact, I see this idea -
the idea that "at least I was never a _________ (fill in the blank)" ...
a lot amongst believers. It is the elephant in the room. No one calls it out but it's there. It's spoken in round about ways. In knowing eyes and coded words.
"At least, I'm not...".
"I'm a good person.."
"I've got my life together"
"I follow the rules"
"I contribute _____ (time, money, insert your word here)"
All of this screams out... I'm good enough. I am presentable enough to enter God's kingdom. I am good.
The truth is I never was a "good enough" girl for God's amazing grace. You and I, friend, we're not good enough.
For if we were, there'd be no need for Jesus.
We can never be good enough... or follow the rules enough.. or have our life together, enough... to be worthy of entering into God's presence, let alone a relationship. I cannot earn my way to heaven.
No amount of good behavior, good deeds, or thoughts can move me one step closer to earning a relationship with Christ.
And.. amen to that.
Isn't that exhausting??
Trying to earn someone's approval?
Trying to earn someone's friendship??
Trying to be good enough??
It's down-right, bone-aching exhausting. And it's wrapped in failure. Every. Time.
And Praise Him for His simple, releasing way of coming to Him.
He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" - Matthew 11:28
The truth is God isn't a God of complication. He is a God of clarity and simplicity.
He is a God of Grace. And freely gives that Grace when we are so, so undeserving of it.
Let's put the "good girl" myth to death. I know I have in my own life since my epiphany several weeks ago. I am very aware of my daily failures... and I know I was never a "good girl" to earn God's grace by my own efforts. It is most definitely a gift - freely given to all who seek it.