I used to be perfect. I made perfect grades, was a perfect child, never got into trouble, never snuck out of the house, never went to parties, never even dated. I didn't drink, I didn't smoke, I didn't do drugs, I didn't have sex.
In college I kept up with all of this and more. I was the president of my campus ministry. I was also the secretary, treasurer, and promotions officer, a small group leader and in the worship band. I was a good person. I really loved people, and wanted to make a difference. And I knew it. I also knew that this meant I would fall happily in love by the time I graduated college and then have 2.5 children by the time I was 30. This is the plan for all good girls, and I stick to plans.
Goodness, however, is not a true compass for life. Yes, we should try to be good and make good choices, but it doesn't actually dictate our path in life, at least not always. There's a lot more to it than that.
Four years ago, almost exactly, I broke up with my fiancee/best friend, left my home in New York, quit a job that I loved and moved back in with my parents in Alabama to start over. This was not my plan, but my plan was not working out for me. And I was angry. I had been so good for so long and had nothing to show for it. It wasn't fair.
So I decided to stop caring so much.
I'm not saying I'm a bad person; in fact, all in all I'd say I'm still a pretty good person. But the last four years have been quite the roller coaster. I have done and said things I am not proud of. I have fallen quite far from the pedestal I once put myself on. I've done the things I swore I would never do. I have made bad choices and hurt people. I've let people hurt me.
And you want to know the darkest part? It's a secret I could never tell anyone, but I'll tell you anyway: I wanted it.
I remember telling my mom a long time ago that I was afraid my story wasn't exciting enough. That I couldn't relate to other people because I had never really done anything bad. I remember her telling me that it scared her that I thought that. I understand that now too.
I wanted to know what heartbreak felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what rejection felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what drunkenness felt like. I know now. I wanted to know what lust felt like. I know now. And it has broken me. Not just me, but the little bubble I had lived in for so long. I could no longer be ignorant, or naive. And that can be a very scary place to be. I found myself longing for the safe little cocoon that I once lived in, far from real life and real choices and real people.
But here I am, smack dab in the middle of real life, where it is not safe, and it is certainly not stable.
The only thing that has always been a constant in my life, besides my family, is God. I have always loved God so, so much. It may sound cheesy and silly, and a lot of my friends now don't really understand it, but even when I wasn't in church I always believed and I always loved Him. There are things I believed growing up that just don't apply in real life, and that may have been a part of my original naivete and ignorance, and I definitely don't want to go back to that, but I have never wanted to leave God. Never. I have just been so afraid that I couldn't do it "correctly" anymore, whatever that means. Following Him is so damn heartbreaking sometimes because it's just so hard and we're just so bad at it. And I really hate being bad at things.
I became so fixated on the fact that I am never again going to be that girl from four years ago, that I was forgetting the fact that I am who I am today, and that's pretty awesome too. Yes, I have made bad choices, but who's to say I can't be even better because of those choices?
In church this morning (p.s. I've finally found another church that feels honest and real and I am so grateful for that) Pastor Ryan was talking about the prophet Haggai and the word he got while they were rebuilding the temple: that "the glory of this present house will be even greater than the glory of the former house." And maybe this is me being self-centered again, but who's to say God can't do the same thing with me? Maybe I can be a better, stronger, less afraid version of myself? With a little more wisdom? And humility? Lots and lots of humility?
I have been so worried that I couldn't be the girl I used to be. And that's so silly. Why should I ever be her again? She was not real. She followed a set of rules because she was scared of the consequences, not because she truly believed in what she was doing. She did what she was supposed to do, not because she was truly following the example of Jesus, but because she was looking forward to the reward. That is no way to live. Or at least, it is no way to live well. It's certainly not the way God wants us to live.
Now, I am so glad to be broken. I am so glad to be teachable. I am so glad to be wrong. I am so glad to know that when I make mistakes, I can be better off for them. I am so glad to know that I get more than one chance.
I used to be perfect. And I am so glad I'm not anymore.