Faith · Grace

The Failure of Operation GoodJenn

I am – by nature – a rule-follower, a people-pleaser, a performer. I crave affirmation, blue ribbons, good grades. All my life I have worked hard to mold myself into the appearance of a good girl — a good daughter, a good student, a good wife, a good mother, a good Christian.

Most often, my motives for being so good have been pretty self-centered. I want people to respect me, like me, approve of me. Even if I don’t much like you, I want you to adore me!

And I’ve set out on Operation GoodJenn the same way many of you probably have attempted to measure up. I’ve set my sights on my behaviors and outward appearance, and I’ve tried my best to chisel myself into the model of a perfect Christian girl.

All too often, though, my efforts have resulted in being what Jesus called a whitewashed tomb — all shiny, happy and respectable on the outside but irritable, resentful and dead on the inside. After years and years of Operation GoodJenn, I realized that good grades and blue ribbons and accolades and people-pleasing do not satisfy my soul. All of that frustrates and exhausts me. It is a heavy burden because I was not made for this. I was not made to focus my mind and heart on myself. I was made to look to God, to seek after Him.

For so many years I understood that I could not make myself good enough for God to initially love me, that He loved me and saved me purely by grace. Yet I was trying to live as a good Christian all on my own. I was behaving as if I could somehow sanctify myself by cleaning myself up and keeping myself good. I was behaving as if I could earn God’s approval and favor and maybe some heavenly brownie points by looking like I had my act together.

But I’ve been learning that God doesn’t expect me to make straight A’s in life. He doesn’t expect me to look perfect. He doesn’t expect me to get my act together and behave the right way. God does not give me a checklist and then stand back and watch as I perform or master or accomplish each item. That might be my natural tendency, but that’s not God’s M.O.

No, He saves us by grace and He sanctifies us by grace. He gives us His very own Spirit and then He begins to supernaturally transform us from the inside-out.

Remember the other day when I told you that, at my very core, I don’t want to focus on my kids’ behavior, that I want their hearts? That’s how God feels about us! He wants my heart! And when my heart is fully His, knowing Him better and loving Him more, then the good outward appearance will follow (though it may end up looking very different than my own finite mind could have conjured up!).

So I’m learning to give up my rule-following, people-pleasing, performing tactics. I’m learning to love God with all my heart and seek Him, letting Him gently chisel me into the model of the girl He wants me to be. I’m learning that His grace truly is enough – enough to save me and enough to change me and enough to carry me each day.

How about you? Are you a performer? Are you exhausted and frustrated and about to give up because you can’t measure up? Let me encourage you – give up. Give up. You’re right; you can’t measure up. You were never meant to measure up on your own. Accept grace. Love God; seek after Him; and watch His plans for you unfold. Join me in GRACEland. 

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