Lies Good Girls Believe

5:33 AM

I got another big idea the other day. Polka dot notebook in hand and pen ink on fingers, I chatted away with my best friend about the topics most pertinent to younger girls. What did we believe that we shouldn't have at that age? What did we struggle with? What did we learn that transformed us? Because if I could do anything to keep girls from falling into the ruts I did, the heartbreak and confusion would be worth everything.

"I definitely want to cover what to do when you feel you've lost your salvation," I babbled. "This is so huge. I know so many girls struggle with this -- with feeling like they'll wake up in hell -- and then beg God over and over to save them and never feel like it does any good."

My friend stared at me, slightly horrified. "It's so strange," she said, after I looked up, "so strange how we're so different."

"You didn't ever feel like that?"

"No, not really."

No? No? 

Sometimes there are these moments when light bulbs click and you blurt out, "Wow, I thought I was the only one!" Who knew it was true? I couldn't wrap my mind around it. We were so similar, she and I. We homeschooled. Our parents were sincere, active Christians. We shared a good chunk of our spiritual journey together over the past five years. I felt certainly her greatest struggle would have been mine -- helplessly fearing the wrath of God, tortured in accusations and guilt, running so hard and falling so short.

In my observations of homegrown Christians (a.k.a. we second-generation Christians), I've come across two types: the apathetic and the work-a-holic. In her younger years, she struggled with apathy -- overcoming the rote religion of being baptized, going to church and growing up in a Christian family and really making Christ the number one priority. Me?

I cried myself to sleep at night -- if I slept at all, lest death should take me. I heard altar calls and froze up, feeling for certain I was and wasn't saved. I walked around guilty, burdened and unloved. I distanced my filthiness from the holy God I feared with every ounce of my consciousness. I emotionally whipped myself, struggled up every day to try again and hid the blisters and bruises from everyone I knew.

I was a good girl. Good girls don't show their imperfection.

Needless to say, apathy was never an issue with me -- though of course I insisted it was, since how else could I explain my failure at perfection? My salvation was based on bits and pieces of His grace and for the most part on hamster-wheel work.

Interestingly, we grew up in different circles, different denominations. She'd never heard of stay-at-home daughters and Vision Forum. I had no clue what all this talk about grace and the Spirit was. I grew up Baptist, conservative -- the fundamental kind, the anti-beer, anti-tank tops, anti-everything type. She grew up more inwardly conservative -- more "normal," for lack of a better word. If grace was preached, I must have been asleep.

No lie: the ultra-conservative lifestyle is very performance-based. We know it. We feel the pressure of wondering if we're modest enough, demure enough, motherly enough, feminine enough, just plain good enough (especially if it involves snagging a godly guy). I consider myself an outdated fuddy duddy on many issues, but I can still say it: it's very performance-based. Come to think of it, all the friends I knew who struggled with the fear of losing their salvation grew up extremely conservative by the world's standards.

I like conservative. There's great freedom in being modest, feminine and godly, sure. I just feel that there's a different set of temptations for us "good girls" than the girl who wears skinny jeans to the public school and doesn't blink at it. It's Satan's big secret. Satan knows it's no good trying to get us to party and drink, so he attacks on a different front: guilt. And then -- and he loves this -- he convinces us that this guilt and fear is really the essence of Christianity. Thus, we recoil at the thought of God's love, God's grace, relief from the relentless press of ungodliness. "Antinomianism!" we scream. "Grace abusers! Spineless Christianity!" This leads to abject misery, ballooning pride or atheism. We never once touch grace or faith -- because how could Christianity be divorced from floor-length skirts and homeschooling?

Girls, we read about modesty, courtship and obeying our parents. There is so much more to Christianity than this. You're most likely not going to face the temptations of bad boys and low-cut blouses. What you will face? Lies like these:

The point of Christianity is obedience -- obeying morals, rules and convictions to please God. Half-truth. Our obedience expresses love, yes. But Christ died not to primarily convict us that we're ugly sinners, not to lock us into a strict moral system and not to enable us to be good people. He died that we may have access to the Father. There is therefore now no condemnation. We are not by any means "good people" (good girls don't yell at siblings and neglect the laundry), but we are justified in His sight, able to stand before His presence and experience the grace and truth that conform us to the image of His Son.

Everything works by formula. If a prominent Christian leader has not endorsed your particular choice, you're wrong. Lie. Each receives a gift, a call and the Spirit to guide her. Your individuality reflects the diversity of the church and the care God shows toward you.

God cannot stand you. You grieve Him. You annoy Him. Big fat lie. God loves you. Not in the cuddly Care Bear sense -- this love moves mountains and it is directed toward and for you. He wants you -- to reason with Him if you have questions, to rest upon Him when you're weary, to ask Him for anything. Forget about fixing your messiness: He knows you're a mess. He's conscious you're imperfect. But He loves you anyway. You don't think He didn't know how horrible your sin was when He died for you? He gave everything for you. Good girls are very comfortable with the idea that God loves everyone; we feel it's heresy to think that He actually loves and died for us individually.

He did.

So many lies run along this same train, blocking us from grace and truth, producing self-hatred, confused womanhood, and petrified rote obedience. This guilt and despair thwarts the true repentance and obedience necessary to put on Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. Embrace grace. Embrace truth. Embrace God. Then live Him out.

To start where I began, what do you or did you struggle with? What lies do you believe? What do you wish you would have known that you know now? What confuses you? What do you need to hear? I hope we can wrestle with these questions together and pray for the truth that sets us free.

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21 impressions

  1. So have you been reading Emily P. Freeman's book? 'Cause you sound like her!

    I know exactly what you are talking about, Bailey, because I went through the same thing for about the first thirteen and a half years of my life. My life was cycles of me thinking one day I was saved and another I was going to hell for sure. My nights were nights of crying and begging before I felt I could safely go to sleep.

    But God is soooooooooo merciful! Our family began going to a church that preached the doctrines of grace about two and a half years ago. It was my first time ever to hear such things explained. My heart began to feel hope, but my cycles were still going. Finally, one day, I got so desperate that I asked God to please save me if He hadn't and that I was just going to trust Him with my soul because I knew that He was merciful and He promised in His Word to save sinners. (Sorry for the long run-on sentence, Grammar Queen!)

    Ever since that day, I have been growing. I had never been able to before that because I had been too preoccupied with whether I was saved or not. That means that, by necessity, my eyes were focused on myself all the time instead of Christ. It wasn't until I was able to let go of that and just pour myself into Him that I could begin to grow. (Not to sound hyper-spiritual, because I fail miserably at doing this at least every day that ends in y and a few that end in z.)

    If you aren't reading it already, go read Emily P. Freeman's book "Grace for the Good Girl" and then you'll know me backwards and forwards. If that book is open, then my life is pretty much screaming at you.

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  2. As a lifelong "good girl," this post is for me. I'm actually reading a book right now called "Grace for the Good Girl." What you said echoes something the author said- that she got saved at an early age but then felt the need to go back later, convinced that the first time "didn't take."

    When I was younger, I definitely used to feel like maybe I had lost my salvation and needed to ask for it again. Scared that because I got saved pretty young and never had any wild years to repent of, maybe I didn't ask for it the right way the first time or something. I thought I was the only one who felt that way. :) As I've gotten older, that's not really an issue for me anymore.

    I still struggle with being a perfectionist. I've always carefully cultivated my "image" because I want everyone to like me and I don't want anyone to see my (many) imperfections.

    In my case, it all comes down to focusing too much on *me* and what others think of me instead of just focusing on God.

    But I won't say too much more for now, because I'm sort of planning a post about this on my blog...If I'm brave enough to follow through and post it, that is. :)

    ~Kristin

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  3. I, too, have struggled with accepting the grace of GOD. I went through a month long period of knowing for certain that I was not saved and never could be. I still wonder sometimes if I'm saved, but now I know that I am: I see the problem when I think, "I don't know if I'm saved, but I've done everything I know to do." Then GOD reminds me that He is the one who works in me. My greatest struggle is one against legalism; judging others and judging myself.
    This was a great post, Bailey. Thank you.

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  4. When I stumbled across Emily Freeman, I thought, "Rats. She stole my book idea." I read her blog but haven't read her book yet.

    Girls, I'm so thankful for the mercy in your lives and your courage to press on in faith!

    Melody, I too faced the "spiritual turnaround" after discovering the doctrines of grace. It was so freeing to know that God's justice was satisfied at the cross and that I am free indeed!

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  5. I could be wrong, but I think this is so much more about personality than religion and upbringing. I was raised an atheist - to not believe in God at all - and I still went through at least two separate periods in my life when I was horribly afraid I was going to hell. My daughter is being raised Unitarian Universalist - we are trying to teach her that there is no such thing as hell and that different ideas of God are human constructs, ways of visualizing and understanding the unknowable. She also has expressed to me that she is sometimes afraid she is going to hell.

    I'm sure some of the readers of this comment will be quite confident that both my daughter and I are headed straight for hell, but none of us can really *know* what will happen to anyone else right? If you know in your heart that you are saved then, I think, you are. I think whatever happens to some Christians (especially girls and even more especially "good girls" maybe?) that causes them to doubt their salvation at some points in their lives and be absolutely confident of their salvation at others, a simliar thought process happens to non-Christians (especially "good girls"). While I do not typically use words like saved and grace because they are not meaningful to me, I know in my heart and in my head that I am not going to hell. My minister gave a sermon on this topic where he talked about how UUs can answer the question "Are you saved?" His conclusion was that we can honestly answer the question, "yes". Interestingly, I have never been concerned about others thinking I am going to hell. Those times in my life when I did have that fear it was always internally generated.

    Bailey, I am glad you are confident of your own salvation at this point in your life and I think it is sweet that you want to help other young girls who might be having doubts. Unfortunately, I think some girls are just going to go through this regardless of how the people who love them and have been through it try to help.

    Adele

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  6. Love this! I have struggled with some of the things you're talking about, so it's such a blessing to hear your thoughts.

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  7. I can relate to the constant nightmare of never being a true Christian. The fear of being "saved the wrong way" or "not really" being saved haunted endlessly.

    Until the thought of God's power came in. God's all powerful (sure), and has power over everything (sure), even sin (absolutely). But, He just doesn't have enough to save me. I knew God could save, but I didn't think He could save me.

    I was convinced that if I failed once as a Christian I failed everything. It was hard to accept that grace covered all sins, past and present.

    That drama (not very long) past, gave to other new fears. The stupid ones, especially.

    The first of serving Christ. How, what, when, where - can I serve Him? The purpose I have in Christ. What's that?

    What if I'm wrong? What about all those tragic stories of sincere people who got it allwrong?

    Witnessing? Scary. Passing tracts truly isn't the only way...does that mean I have to talk to someone?

    What if I don't have an answer? Especially to someone who thinks I'm wrong?

    Btw, next time you catch me during the night with questions for you project - make sure I'm awake first. ;)

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  8. Adele, that's a valid point. I was specifically speaking of Christian "good girls" in this post, simply because that is where all of my experience stems from. I think everyone struggles with this until they have made peace with God and themselves, for I no longer doubt my salvation -- and that's saying a lot!

    I don't find it particularly helpful to point fingers and say, "Yep, you're heading for hell" or even, "No, sweetheart, you're perfectly okay." It's impossible to know whether someone is running straight to hell or is about to bump into the grace of God Himself in a moment. ;o) I do believe that there is an objective way to heaven and no manner of feeling in one's heart will determine that. Just as one is not necessarily unsaved by feeling so, one is not saved by feeling saved.

    By way of illustration, rare is the murderer who feels remorse for his deed. He's fully convinced that he was either wired that way or had perfect justification for killing. It doesn't mean he is any more right or the law any more wrong.

    Rebellion is the sin we have committed. We may convince ourselves we are justified in what we do, but that does not measure up against objective truth and justice.

    No one is saved by human approval -- whether by a pastor, a parent, a friend, a Bailey or herself. Only God. And He does not approve until we put on the righteousness of His Son, available through His atonement on the cross.

    Salvation is not the same thing as confidence. It's not a feeling. It's a soul state before God. Only those who have reconciled with God are on their way to heaven -- but really, heaven isn't even the ultimate goal of humanity. The deepest desire of anyone's heart, whether acknowledged or squelched, is to know God -- and His greatest desire is to have us know Him.

    That is why Jesus came. That we may know Him.

    I love you very much, Adele. I hope you know that. *HUGS* Now to debate the Trinity! :o)

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  9. Wait- are you saying that it's a lie that God loves everyone, or a truth?

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  10. I've felt like I've been on both sides. A longing to be ultra conservative because it was "godlier" and then also realizing what a trap it was and how performance based it is.
    And then I've also felt "lost", heading for hell and the guilt feelings which led to me believing that I wasn't truly saved.

    It really helps to talk to a mentor, a person who is solidly rooted in their faith and has been a Christian for a very long time. And pick up the Bible when those lies start to enter your thoughts! The more you study and pray and grow, the more you come to understand God and salvation. :)

    And despite the fact that I'm entering my mid to late twenties and have been a Christian for many years, I still have to face the doubts, the fears and the lies on occasion. Satan never gives up but neither does God! And with Him, we have victory.

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  11. I was raised the conservative good girl, although not as conservative as some. (i.e., I wore jeans but no skirts/shorts ever showed my knees.)

    Another lie that took me forever to expose: Preachers/speakers have been to seminary, university, Bible college, and have had lots of practice and study. Therefore, they know exactly what they're talking about and if they use specific Bible verses, they're 100% right and inspired by God in the same way as the writers of the Bible itself.
    In reality, preachers and pastors and speakers *can* mess up; they *are* human. We just need to accept that and learn to take what they've given us and test it by the Bible for ourselves. If they are wrong, we still need to respect them, but we shouldn't feel like we're commiting heresy or blasphemy.

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  12. I never struggled with the fear that I'd lost my salvation. What plagued me was the fear that I was never saved in the first place. Saved young, I do not have a definite memory of the time, the actual moment. I know I'm saved now, but I was unsure...then I realized the verity of my salvation. Eventually.

    Thank you for speaking on an oft-forgotten topic.

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  13. Gabriel, I meant to say that it's true that God loves everyone but many girls do not apply "everyone" to include themselves.

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  14. Oh. I'd disagree and say rather that God loves all of the elect. But he is angry with the wicked every day.

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  15. I'm with Melody on this one:

    "I never struggled with the fear that I'd lost my salvation. What plagued me was the fear that I was never saved in the first place."

    Also, how do you back up the phrase "God loves everyone" from the Bible?

    Thanks, as always, for the thought provoking posts, Bailey dear!

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  16. Bailey wins the prize for Best Poorly Worded Sentence. I'm a staunch proponent for particular redemption. My point wasn't to open up the particular redemption/election issue; it was just trying to explain the phenomenon of many Christians who believe in God's love in a general sense instead of making that love a personal love.

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  17. Sounds great :-) Thanks for explaining.

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  18. Thank you for writing this - it touched a chord. As a younger girl I worried that I hadn't asked right, that somehow I'd not quite ticked all the boxes and I'd miss out on salvation and it took a few years to work out that grace doesn't work like that.

    Right now, I'm going through my second miscarriage and my biggest struggle is doubting that I am loved and cherished by a God who could have prevented this happenning. In all this pain and grief, the idea that there's a big plan, or a purpose behind this seems like a convenient cop out, and I feel that I am being punished.

    So there's my disconnect - the difference between being able to intellectually parrot the 'right' answer, and the peace in my heart of knowing them to be true.

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  19. Oh, my gosh...Carie, I'm so sorry. I wish I could wrap my arms around you and tell you everything's going to be all right, and I can't find words to express that. I just read this article that might bless you: http://incourage.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a9e57887af58589c4ecd6475d&id=2e9e19a098&e=038efc8e11

    *HUGS*

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  20. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. The article is perfect - I've read it again and again and it helps a little. I'd come unstuck reading a book that advertised itself as comfort for people going through miscarriage or stillbirth but was mostly a thinly disguised anti abortion book. To have the loss of a desperately loved and wanted little baby lumped with abortion is shall we say not helpful. Thank you for reaching out, for caring about someone you've never met who lives an ocean away and for sending me to an article that might have been written with me in mind.

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