I grew up in the church confident I could be perfect if I tried hard enough.
I thought knowing better meant behaving better and that this is what God wants from me. I would try so hard and when I failed I would beat myself up internally, feeling like there was something deeply wrong with me. My Christian narrative influenced and enforced this well; God made everything perfect, the sin of humanity messed things up, and because of the way God set things up someone had to die. Jesus- son of God, beaten and crucified for me. Because of me. Because even though I knew better, I still couldn’t be perfect. The responsibility for this death weighed heavy on my soul. The debt I believed I owed God weighed heavy on my soul.
Since I couldn’t be perfect, I tried my best to be good.
My definition of “good” was a mix of rules I was given and rules I came up with (a sneaky rebranding of perfection).
In high school I carried my Bible tucked under my arm so the words “Holy Bible” on the spine were visible to anyone curious enough to wonder why I did not use my handy-dandy backpack I concurrently wore.
I organized our “See you At the Pole” prayer rally’s each year and also helped found an interfaith group with the secret hope to convert the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and atheist members (Nobody converted).
I didn’t date anyone who wasn’t a Christian. I didn’t even date Christians who seemed less committed than me.
I spent my free time during school volunteering for my church and community, and on summers I went on evangelization mission trips to countries all over the world.
I attended a Christian university for nursing school, continuing my plan to be as good as possible.
Even as an adult I still did not take ownership of my life.
After getting my nursing license I began working at a local hospital known for taking indigent and low-income patients. I also volunteered at a local clinic and continued doing foreign medical missions. I poured my energy into caring for my patients, trying to be the best nurse I could be.
A doctor once commented how good of a person he thought I was. I quickly corrected him, explaining how I wasn’t perfect and only because of Jesus was I doing these good things. He said that alone made me a good person. I shook my head, knowing what this doctor didn’t know; Jesus gave it all for me because I’m not good. Everything good I did was for God; I owed Him so much. My life was not my own.
A nice Christian way to say “I was part of the reason Jesus died so I owe God my life.”
Honestly, this didn’t seem like a problem. My hard work made me feel like I was doing a pretty good job of paying Him back.
I thought this tradeoff was the good news.
In some ways, it is. But there is more to this news than I realized. I kept experiencing things that disrupted my neatly packaged worldview. Me being hurt by others. Me hurting others. God seemingly above it all, requiring death and holding it over my head. I couldn’t figure out how to balance the debt-owe ratio between myself, God, and others.
It was beginning to feel a little like that show “The Good Place,” *SPOILER ALERT* when everything made more sense the moment they realized they were not in heaven, but in hell.
This blog is so you can see inside my journey, peer inside my past and current faith-infused life. A life of my own, where I am growing smaller and stronger at the same time. Where wisdom, love, and creativity are the soil, air, and sunlight needed to thrive in the garden of life. I’m rediscovering a Jesus who is better. A God who is bigger.
The good news is way better than I thought.