Welcome to the first official week of our loosely organized summer book club/discussion/read-along. Today we’ll be discussing Chapters 1 – 3 of Grace for the Good Girl. You may also wish to join us on Facebook where we’ll continue discussion in a closed group, for those who aren’t comfortable leaving their thoughts in the comments.
the first thing you need to know
Reading this book for some people can be a little like being lost on a desert island your whole life. But then you finally get your hands on a mirror and you’re all, Who is that person and why is she such a wreck?! The number one thing I want to say to you as we get started is this: be kind with yourself this week. The first half of the book can be hard to get through, especially if this is your first time confronting some of the exhausting ways you do life.
As you have read the first few chapters and are considering what part of you is in hiding and what part of you is just you, take heart. You do not have to figure this thing out. You are not a fragmented, pieced out pile of mish-mash parts. Resist the urge to categorize yourself into good, bad, or indifferent. Avoid the temptation to look at your life and hang on to some parts and throw out others.
I know it can be overwhelming – Am I hiding? Is this a mask? Is this really me? Who am I?! Might I make a suggestion? Instead of attempting to graph out those questions in your 3-ring binder or a bullet-point outline, would you be willing to take them and carry them around in your pocket? The old way of doing life is to take it with both hands and attempt to figure it out. But if the work Jesus did on the cross is as complete as we say we believe it is, then it has to be big enough for this, too.
Here’s the bottom line – You are complete, known, and found already. But you might not know it yet. And that is the reason why I wrote this book. Allow yourself to sit down on the inside as you read, to practice believing that even though things might feel a bit upside down, you are safe in Christ. You really are.
the 3 things I hear most often
Here’s the thing. There are many women who will never, ever connect with my book. They have struggles, but being a good girl isn’t one of them. I learned pretty early on that some women don’t get the good girl thing. I wish I was one of them.
But for the next eight weeks, I’m talking with women who do struggle in these ways, women who worry they are both too much and not enough, women who are tired of the try-hard life. Among us, there are a few things I hear a lot. I thought it might be interesting for you to know what they are.
1. “Have you been reading my journal?” Many women read parts of the introduction out loud to their husbands or friends because they think it describes them so well. This amazes me. This is proof that, even if I am indeed a crazy person, at least I am not crazy by myself.
2. “I’m 55 years old and …” This one always makes me smile big. I have been so surprised how many women start their emails off this way. Something about the 55-year-olds compels them to tell me their age, which I think is awesome. Maybe it’s because they didn’t expect to connect with the concepts in the book and are generally surprised when they do.
3. “I thought I was the only one.” Many women are simply relieved to finally have a name to put on that invisible expectation they have been living with their whole lives. I know I was relieved to finally have a way to talk about this stuff.
Two things a lot of you said last week when I introduced the series: 1) You are nervous. And 2) you have already read the book once but are looking forward to having a place to discuss it with others who get it. I’m happy to provide a bench for you to sit on together. In my experience, freedom and authority to resist fear comes more easily in community than when I’m on my own. And even though community with hands and feet and coffee is better, I hope some of you can find community here as well.
So welcome. As you read from Texas, Denmark, California, Australia, Italy, Virginia, Ohio, Canada, Switzerland, Iraq, South Carolina (and a special hello to my college roommate down in South Florida and her group of 17 who are going through the book together – I love you, Faith!) as well as so many other cities in the US and around the world. We’re glad you’re here.
because they’re people
Remember that Friends episode where Phoebe and Rachel go running through Central Park and Rachel gets embarrassed because Phoebe runs like a lunatic? Her arms flailed about and her legs look like frog legs and Rachel just didn’t want to be associated with Phoebe and all her elbows. When Phoebe confronts her and asks why she cares so much what people think, Rachel responds, “Because they’re people!“
And so it has gone for me.
“If you wonder what gives you the authority to define me, I will say it is because you exist.” page 17
This week we read chapters 1 – 3 where we explored the definition of the good girl as well as two places where she often hides: behind her performance and her good reputation. That quote, the one about you having the authority to define me? It isn’t true. But I wrote it in present tense on purpose, because when I’m listening to that good girl in my head, that statement feels true.
This reputation thing? It is a hard road to learn to release your reputation into the hands of God. Good girls aren’t often confronted with that. We have great reputations, right?! But what about when someone thinks something about you that isn’t true? Or what if they misunderstand something you did or said? Your character may be in tact but your image isn’t. And that is a place where good girls start to lose their Ever. Lovin. Minds.
Maybe it isn’t people-pleasing for you. Maybe it’s something really different, something not in the book but just as powerful. (We’ll talk about six more hiding places in the weeks to come.) No matter what it is, I’ll bet you one thing is for sure: it has everything to do with fear and not much to do with love.
Fear drives, pushing and shoving. But …
“God can do anything you know–far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
Ephesians 3:20, Message
Fear pushes and shoves us around, but Love leads deeply and gently within us. As we continue to read this week, as you wrestle with those questions in your pocket, one question you can ask yourself that might help begin to tease out the answers is this: Am I being motivated by fear or by love?
You are a whole person. A whole, complete-in-Christ person. Fear pulls us apart. Love holds us together.
Don’t try to strangle the good girl all at once. That’s just another form of the try-hard life, the very thing we want to release. Simply, read. Be open. Listen. Engage with others who are also reading, open, and listening. Lean hard into Jesus. Then, think about this question and answer in the comments if you feel comfortable.
What do you feel pushed around by? Others expectations? Your need to be needed? Your to-do list? People’s opinions? You can answer this question in the comments or on Facebook, or you can ask a question of your own. There is no wrong here – but I do want to kindly ask if you would resist the urge to preach at one another. Let’s connect, encourage, and seek to understand. But let’s never slap easy answers on difficult questions. I have to say that now before anyone has done it. I hope you understand what I mean. And also? This might be the longest post I’ve ever written. Amen.
7 things to do before next week:
- Get a copy of the book. It’s never too late to join us. (Amazon, B&N, LifeWay, Family Christian).
- Join the closed Facebook group where discussion is happening as we speak.
- Sign up for the book club if you haven’t already. If you already subscribe to get my monthly newsletter, simply update your preferences to include the book club.
- If you are on Twitter, we’ll use the hashtag #graceforthegoodgirl (unless you can tell me something shorter)
- If you have blog, consider writing your own post on Thursdays and hosting discussion with your own readers. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and grab the book button for your post if you’d like.
- Read chapters 4 – 6 for next week.
- Be kind to yourself.