When I was little, I was known as a Goody Goody. A Goody Goody was the person in class who would be likely to tell the teacher she had red yarn clinging to the sizable rear of her houndstooth skirt rather than let the class bust a stitch every time she turned to write on the board. She could be counted on to be truthful. Brownie, Nerd, Class Angel – yup, that was me. No big surprise. The thing is, being a Goody Goody, even though it didn’t earn me popularity, did have it’s privileges. But they only went so far.
As a Goody Goodys, we were trusted by the teacher, we were an easy mark to NOT be dragged into questionable schemes, and no one offered me a cigarette way too young, saving me years of straddling the gap between Wannabe and Cool. I just wasn’t. No real hope of it. And when it came time for good marks, they were expected of me, of course. Good Girls work hard in school, and they find each other. Awkward laughter and invisibility characterized us, forcing us into Good Girl cliques. Once in a while a boy would cross the border from the nose-bleed seats of social status to flirt (I even went to my prom with one), but that was highly discouraged. In high school, you stay in your lane or bushwhack a trail. I stayed in my lane.
I didn’t mind the label because I secretly thrived on being an individual. Creatives can hide effectively in a nice label like Goody Goody, because it’s so sturdy and useful. There’s plenty of identity to be had. Self-approval in the form of goodness functioned for me for years as something that made me feel competent and respectful. And with that as a cover, I could steep in my journals and my baby faith without making waves. But goodness, even when it’s real, does not satisfy any more than a coffee once it’s gone can warm your lips.
Jesus pushed the limits of Goody Goody into radical truth-telling of the kind that helped people melt their name tags. With his touch and value in his eyes, he gave worth. Oh, and then as if that wasn’t enough, he gave full restoration. Mark 5 is ripping me to shreds lately – three stories that all speak of nameless people being healed – HEALED- from the prison of a body that wants to die. Trapped people who, unless Jesus shows up as himself, outrageously tangibly and heroically touching them, they WILL lose it all. HopeLESS. I mean, there’s “rock bottom”, and then there’s Legion, the man who doesn’t actually get to speak his own name – when asked for it by Christ, his demons speak their name instead. I never saw these three characters before as having anything in common (and somehow being grouped in one Bible chapter hadn’t made them similar to me) until now. But suddenly a possessed naked sicko, a bleeding unclean outcast, and a terminal 12-year-old all look like people I am seeing in my life. People who are swimming upstream, which incidentally is impossible.
This week I had a crazy close encounter with a person who is broken. It was nuts. I got to help her, comfort her, actually make a new hope a little more possible, pray with her and put protein in her red chapped hands. I felt like time was moving slo-mo for the half hour we spent together because pain was wetting her face with agony and making my heart beat hard, but I stayed on course. Help, I had, and a flinty determination to deliver it. Me; a dyed in the wool Goody Goody, superpowered by Jesus. I actually knew the importance of what we did as it was happening. But after we hugged it out and said goodbye, I cried for reasons I didn’t understand. A few days hence my heart is catching up to my body, and what I think is that my body was feeling the aftershock of Goody Goody not being enough. I helped but I didn’t heal.
My heart aches for the next life a bit more these days. I’ve never been a girl with my eyes on heaven because I have a great life – I like it here, but when faced with honest depravity where happy endings are stolen. and fair, for so many of us is just a fable, the fact that we are all literally eternal is a game changer . There is so much more hope available than what “Good” will get you.
I’m lucky I get to do good work, but lately I’m asking, is this kind of good work real goodness? Feed them, clothe them, bring them belonging – isn’t this supposed to meet a deep need inside of me, the kind that buoys up the day? Hell, no. That’s the answer. Being “good” doesn’t function for me like it used to. If I only ever love and serve people for that feeling, the gold star of Pharisaic performance, if that did it for me, I guess I could be happy for myself. That day with the homeless woman? I aced it, right? Sorry if it sounds proud, but I have years of Goody Goody under my belt and it warps your brain. None of that will keep Jennifer warm sleeping in her car tonight somewhere in Manchester. It’s not enough, not by a mile.
Sure, I feel blessed, but it’s not because I am good. Because really, I’m not.
We are all eternal souls. Every person you meet will live on long past their circumstances. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (I Cor 15:19) This is not all we are, life trapped in a jar, and I do not love people to gain worth. I love because people are full of worth. And worthful people will never go away. And by never I mean – never.