Generational Good Girls & the Lifetime Math Problem
My daughter Addie is a good girl.
I would like to think her goodness results from carting her to Papua New Guinea at 4 months old. Or maybe it’s an inherited, easy-going nature from her mother. (Bwa—hahahaha. Whatever!?!) I would love to say that it is a by-product of great parenting or super-Christianity.
Frankly, I know that it is none of those things. She just likes to be good. She likes to be praised. She likes the adulation that follows a good performance. She is tidy, thoughtful, kind, and respectful.
(Okay, she’s also a normal human child with a sin nature, who did recently cause her brother to tear out of the bathroom SHRIEKING…
…“Addie KICKED ME IN THE PEN!$!”)
But, aside from the occasional groin-shot, she is a pretty, darn good girl. And she tries, oh-so hard. She tries to control things in her world so that everyone will be happy. She tries to makes presents for others, designs games for her siblings, administrates activities, and create cards for friends and relatives to please them. In first-born fashion, she tries to plan for, boss, and
manipulate guide others in the way that she thinks will keep them happiest . . . inside her rules, of course.
Yet, all too often her dastardly siblings or parents don’t comply. Life disturbs the careful balance of her control. Unlike her brother or her mom, who wear their noisy feelings dripping from the edges of our lips, Addie binds up her heart deeply, quietly barring away all the negative feelings that she can’t control.
I’ll find her hiding in her closet. Or stuffed under her covers. Or crouched in the corner of my bedroom. She holds her emotions in SO TIGHTLY, demanding them to be still. Usually, she’s not even crying–just hiding. Yet occasionally, her frustration will push out at the gates of her expression–those gates that hold in tears and shouts and lawlessness. And then I’ll find something like this journal entry entitled “My Lifetime Math Problem.”
Did you see that last part? Here. I’ll blow it up for you.125 tries added up equal Fail!
Y’all. Ain’t it the truth!? When I saw that, I thought, “How can I rescue this sweet daughter of mine from this same soul-sucking battle that I fight myself?”
And that’s the question. Isn’t it? How do we tell our daughters to try hard and be good out of one side of our mouths while simultaneously telling them that good works won’t save them and Jesus did it all? How do we teach and preach that to ourselves?
Until I’ve overcome my perfectionistic, controlling, and passive- aggressive tendencies, how can I teach her to open herself up to an imperfect, broken, well-loved and forgiven world?
I don’t know. What I did do was call her into my room, sit her down, and show her the cover of one of my favorite books–a life changer. I had her read the cover to me–where it says Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life. And then we talked about the bird escaping from the cage and leaving behind the trapped life of always trying and failing to be perfect. I told her that I shared (probably passed on) her struggle and that it really IS a lifetime math problem, as she titled it.
But the part that I need to emphasize to her and to myself and even to her little sister (who gall-durnit doesn’t seem to have a people-pleasing bone in her body) is that our efforts bring us NO PEACE if they aren’t unto the Lord. When our striving is for ourselves or our teachers or churches or parents or spouses, the glory is a dim, fading thing. Scripture says: Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
This seems to be a powerful bit of Scripture that people like to draw from then they need a dose of unmeasurable–like a giant miracle, a healing, or a supernatural event, but we quite often gloss over the fact that HIS POWER is at work in US when we endeavor for HIS GLORY. Striving for our own glory, Ecclesiastes points out pretty grimly, is MEANINGLESS. But HIS POWER at work in us does glorify HIM and bring us peace.
For my part, I frequently cannot untangle my own motivations to figure out who I’m trying to glorify. I mean, I really really really WISH that I were trying to glorify God in all things, but I get quickly addicted to the faint, flicker of praise that comes for me . me . me. When I’m doing good things that could glorify him, but am actually doing them for attention, it gets all muddled up. It’s confusing for me . . . and I’m a grown up.
There’s no tidy punchline to this other than, let’s pray for our daughters and each other. As we all SEEK to honor glorify God, let’s be patient, encouraging, forgiving, and grateful that failure isn’t the last word. The last word isn’t TRY either. The final word is GRACE, a fresh clean sheet with mistakes unremembered.
Hi! I’m Katrina. I’m married to an elementary school music teacher and am mom to three crazy kids. Formerly a high school teacher and missionary, I now stay home and give myself pedicures and eat bon-bons, while never avoiding sarcasm. I blog about faith, finances, food, and family. I founded You Go Girl! groups to encourage, equip, and empower women who want to support or participate in missions. I love Jesus, missions, hip-hop dance, gardening, country music, Henry James novels, talking too much, wearing makeup, and eating crusty bread. Come say hi at katrinaryder.com