This week’s post comes from my sensational friend Lisa. Can’t wait for you to read it!
noun good·ness \ˈgu̇d-nəs\
The quality or state of being good
The nutritious, flavorful or beneficial part of something
When my dear friend Sarah asked me to write this guest blog post, I was both honored and slightly terrified. I enjoy writing and used to do so regularly, be it in my journal or college papers (the later being much less enjoyable). But now, it feels like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything more than a couple notes during a sermon or a shopping list for Target (and let’s be honest – who ever sticks to their list while shopping at Target?!). But when God presents an opportunity today, I try to do my best to say yes. The more uncomfortable it makes me feel, the more I probably need to do it. So, it’s time to dust off the old laptop and share some humble thoughts on goodness as a fruit of the spirit.
When I first hear the word goodness, thoughts of performance come to mind. I love “being good” and doing “good things”, and spent much of my life trying to live up to my own standards of what this meant. Whether it was trying to be a good daughter, sister, student, teammate, friend, or Christian – I wanted to be a good one. In doing so, I did many things that I thought would make me a good person…I went to church multiple times a week, always did my homework and showed up to sports practice, served in a church ministry, and hung out with the “right” friends. In college I went on several overseas mission trips, was active in student life and all in all did all the “right” things, trying hard to never break rules and be seen as “bad”.
However now, looking back after what seems like a lifetime of experiences these last few years, I can see that although I certainly did those things with God’s love in mind, I know that deep down there were a couple hidden beliefs. So long as I keep being a good person: 1) others would see me in a good light and I would earn their love and praise and 2) God would surely love me – which at the time, meant that He would protect me from unbearable pain and harm.
Wasn’t God proud of all the things I was doing for Him? Surely that is why He loves me, because of MY goodness. And because of this, God was good to me. Faulty theology that it was, I unknowingly carried this with me through my teenage and early adulthood years before events happened that made me question everything.
Towards the end of my senior year in college (APU shout out!), this belief slowly began to crumble. Suddenly, I felt the choices I was making in my life weren’t fitting so neatly into my tidy little “good” box. If I wasn’t good, I had to be bad…and if I was bad, would God still love me? As a couple more years unfolded, my faulty perception of God (and myself) started crumbling even quicker than I could keep up with, and before I knew it I was in an avalanche of doubt, confusion, anger and pain. Within a year or so my older brother died of an overdose, my battle with depression intensified and I was starting to numb myself dangerously with alcohol. Where was God now? How could I believe that He loved me…I was so far away from doing any kind of good deeds, and a heartbreaking tragedy had just turned my life completely upside down.
I was hurt, I believed I hurt God, and when I looked around, there was no goodness to be found.
Coming out of this spiritual desert of shame and doubt didn’t happen overnight. I had to stop labeling things as strictly good or bad, black or white. Polarized thinking like this limits the love and grace of a big, big God. What if there’s a gray area that I overlook when trying so hard to perform my way into being a good person? God doesn’t see me as simply good or bad. He sees me as HIS. There is grace in the gray area.
The past few years have been those of healing…and pain, and still yet more healing. I know now more about what real goodness is, but also what it is not. It’s not performing holy deeds to boost my moral character. It’s not being an A+ student, an upstanding employee, or a church member with perfect attendance. I have also learned that proof of God’s goodness is not measured by what He allows to happen in my life.
Goodness is God. God IS goodness. He can’t be anything but good – and I can’t do any good without Him. If I do something kind with any kind of selfish motivation behind it, this isn’t the pure form of goodness that comes from Christ.
A fruit of the spirit is a positive quality that comes as a byproduct from intimately seeking a loving God. To this extent, as I strive towards knowing God, goodness will flow from Him into me. And this isn’t the gold medal, employee of the month, homecoming queen kind of good – this is the real, unconditionally loving, truth-telling, and self-sacrificing kind of goodness.
For me today, knowing and loving God looks a lot like being in service to others, and it is the goodness of God that inspires me to do so. When I spend time allowing God to fill up my life through spiritual disciplines such as prayer and studying His word, His Spirit enters my life in a way that beckons me to give it away to others. This can look like so many things…such as taking that 3am call from a friend who is in a particularly painful season, sitting with someone as they nervously shake during their first self-help meeting or simply smiling and saying “hello” to a stranger we pass on the street, just so they know that they are seen.
We can’t muster up this kind of self-sacrificing goodness ourselves (trust me, I’ve tried)…it has to come from the source of all Goodness – Christ Himself. And He is always willing to give – and that, is good.
Lisa is an APU graduate and currently resides Rocklin, her hometown in Northern CA. She is passionate about her work in the mental health field, will eat almost anything as long as there is peanut butter on it, and can put up a fierce debate about why cats are better than dogs. She is a big believer in the healing power of vulnerability – and the community that can be found by allowing others to see us as the beautiful messes that we are.