I used to be a table dancer.
And before your imagination conjures up a bar top, smoke-tinged air, and an exotic beat, let me assure you, it’s not all that.
Eager to spread my 20-year-old wings in the world, I found myself in my best friend’s college dorm room, surrounded by several handsome onlookers. It was either boredom or a singular moment of inhibition that propelled me atop the table to show off my best rendition of “The Gidget Dance” from a before-my-time sitcom. Sweet, right? Or not.
Let me clarify – I once danced on a table.
It was a rather harmless moment that will live in infamy, but one ENTIRELY outside my personality. I was a good girl. A play-it-safe, rule-following, people-pleasing, young thing. So when one of those handsome fellows, clearly captivated by my dance moves, invited me to church and introduced me to Jesus, it seemed a match made in heaven.
My Type-A personality and logical reasoning quickly concluded that when good girl meets great God, happily ever after ensues. And for a while, that served me fine.
But God wasn’t after my happy, He was after my heart.
I spent a lot of years sitting in pews scanning the church landscape for the perfect Christian women. Like a sponge I soaked up patterns of faith, placing people on pedestals and striving to emulate the proper prayer, the humble heart, the quietly submissive, cookie-cutter woman of faith.
Those years were spent volleying between guilt for failing to be “her” and a warped self-satisfaction for having achieved some form of success. I’m not sure which is worse. People make very poor idols, and they inevitably fall. So would I. God showed me the problem with being good: I wasn’t.
There is no such thing as the perfect Christian woman.
We are sinners, every one of us. Prone to the frailty of flesh and the whims of selfishness, we can easily make a mess of this life. We can’t even meet our own expectations of right and wrong. It’s futile to expect to meet God’s standards – apart from His son.
We want to be good. God wants us to get real.
This life is short and there simply is no time for pretense and platitudes. Perfection is a bar set high by a sinless Savior and it’s a goal we will never achieve this side of heaven. We can spend so much time focused on the methods of being a good Christian, that we entirely bypass the principles:
God loves us.
God saves us.
God sets us free.
We are daughters of the King, chosen and beloved, purposed for far greater things than mere goodness. It’s when we embrace that identity in Christ that we are truly unleashed to pursue our place in His Kingdom.
It would be hypocritical of me to insert rules where grace reigns, where freedom has been purchased by Christ’s shed blood and scandalous love. But for the sake of our sanity and pure practicality, I’m rewriting goodness with some “guidelines” for all of us searching for relief:
1. Honesty trumps goodness.
Authenticity and vulnerability do not come easy. Laying yourself bare takes heaps of bravery, but there is no safer place to start than with the God who loves us just as we are. Sit a spell in Psalm 139 and discover why there are no secrets from a God who examines our heart and knows everything about us. Goodness is an empty pursuit, but honesty is the foundation for transformation. God can do amazing things when we give Him an all access pass to our lives.
2. Always be kind, but don’t be a doormat.
Good girls long to be kind and obedient, but that pension to please can far too often lay us flat. Kindness is a fruit of the spirit – it is filling, not depleting. We aren’t obligated to bleed ourselves dry ensuring that everyone in the universe is perfectly pleased. Proverbs 31:26 reminds us to pursue kindness in close proximity to wisdom. God is the source of both. Seek Him, then speak and act accordingly.
3. Look around only after you look up.
It’s a beautiful thing to have people in our lives who live out their faith by example. But setting our eyes on others before we’ve fixed them on God can be a slippery slope. Comparison robs us of the unique purpose that God has written over our lives. No one can do what God has called us to like we can. The girl next door has her own race to run. So rather than stare, why not cheer her on – we girls are on the same side, after all.
4. Lies are a waste of your time.
We have a very real enemy who desires to steal and destroy – our identity, our voice, our purpose. The best way to diminish God is by making His people feel small; to sell us the lie that we are not enough, that we’ll never measure up. We cannot be women led astray (2 Timothy 3:6-7) by the fleeting lies of an enemy jealous of our victory in Christ. We must exchange every “less than” whisper for God’s “more than enough” truth. Know the word of God and wield it as a weapon when the enemy tries to defeat you.
5. Never sacrifice your freedom.
Jesus rewrites our ideas of good and inserts grace – forgiveness, broad space, and sweet freedom. That freedom was purchased at a very high price. We cannot give it away for people, plans, or pursuits that cause us to strive and struggle to be something other than what God has created us for. Our story is priceless to Him and He is authoring it with great purpose. Our ending may have been good, but His is far better than we can even imagine.
Tiffany Parry is a wife and mom who dwells in the sunshine (and smog) of Southern California. She’s a lover of words who purposes to use hers to speak God’s truth with grace and authenticity. More than that, she longs to provide a safe place for others to do the same. You are invited to join her word-by-word journey through the mountains and valleys of faith at her blog, Simply for One, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.