I’ve been haunted by my friend’s blog post from a month ago: Jack, You’re Doing it Wrong. In it, Jackie claims she’s been “doing it wrong” her entire life, and then she tells you how much she loves her life. Though Jackie and I come from very different experiences, I have always been inspired by her honesty and bravery. She’s an incredible person, a talented writer, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, gosh I wish I could be like her. (She’ll laugh when she reads that.) Read her post. Beware of cuss words and don’t judge.
Her post got me thinking about me and how much I am her opposite. How I was the preacher’s kid who did everything right. So this post?
This is for the ones who did it right.
As teenagers we read our Bible, prayed more fervently than our prayer warrior grandmothers, and eagerly evangelized our unchurched friends. We read Brio instead of Seventeen and listened to DC Talk instead of Vanilla Ice. We never had one of the great testimonies because we never came to Jesus from drugs or alcohol or sex. But we sure had a good testimony. We could talk for hours about God’s grace and blessings and love. In college, we avoided most of the wild parties and went to student-led praise and worship services instead. We found Christian boys from our Christian colleges and married them. We waited until we got married to have sex. (Or if we didn’t wait, we sure felt guilty about it.) We still go to church every Sunday. We teach Sunday School. We go to Bible study. We sing in the choir.
Now that we’re grown up, sometimes we feel the need to be wild. To be something more than just the good girl who follows the rules. So we do something to make us feel less goody-goody and more edgy. We dye our hair wild colors or pierce our noses or get tattoos. Maybe we drink wine or say a swear word every once in a while.
But the truth is that none of that really changes us. Deep inside, we know that it will be difficult for us to break free of the good girl. Because we were promised that if we did it this way, everything would be all right. Our lives would be good. We would be blessed. And when everything doesn’t always turn out all right, we stay quiet about it. We persevere. We keep trusting. We keep believing. We keep doing everything right. And everyone keeps thinking that we’re fine. They don’t need to worry about us; we’re the good ones.
Can I say it to the world? We have scars, too.
Our scars are hidden, often kept secret. We trace them with our fingers in the dark of the middle of the night. Our scars are related to all the dark words: Depression. Marital problems. Money problems. Addiction. Doubt. Anger. Disbelief. Our scars are from being singed by the pressures of perfection and the burden of expectation. Our scars are from projecting an image we must always let others see, and also from feelings and words that must never be seen. Our skin is ridged and edged from holding them in for so long.
If you are one of us, I’m here to tell you:
You are allowed to do it wrong. You are allowed to be broken. You are allowed to be imperfect. You are allowed to feel what you truly feel. You allowed to say the words written on the inner membrane of your heart, where right now only you can see them. You are allowed to speak your truth. You are allowed to ask questions and to be angry. You are allowed to disagree and to be happy. You are allowed to love the way you long to love. You are allowed to break out of the confines of perfection and expectation. You are allowed to be free.
I promise you, God will still love you. Your parents will still love you. Your church will still love you. (If it doesn’t, then it’s time to find a new church.)
The spiritual life is a life of authenticity, not a life of rigidity. If you’re following the rules for the sake of following the rules, then it’s time to let go. Find your true self and be brave enough to show it. God wants you, the true you. God wants you with all your disappointments and scars and messiness. You are allowed to be YOU.
* Though I use the term “good girl” because that’s my experience, this post is for both men and women, because I think men feel the pressure to be perfect and to do it right as well.