“The goodness of God is infinitely more wonderful than we will ever be able to comprehend.” Aiden Wilson Tozer
My own goodness created an impasse for decades to me truly being good. It got in the way of God’s goodness and got me into trouble because I ignored God’s grace. After all, I didn’t think I needed it. Instead of worshipping Him, I worshipped being a good person.
In hindsight, I must’ve thought I was gooder than God.
If I compared myself to Him, I would have fallen so far short, so I didn’t. I compared myself to other people, ones I decided fell shorter than I did when it came to trying hard and getting it right. I have no idea how I measured my goodness compared to theirs, but I came out gooder every time … sort of.
It seemed an innocent enough habit for my family of origin who sat around our big kitchen table and compared us to them. We always came out gooder too … sort of. That’s because we pointed fingers at people we decided were worse. It seemed harmless until the evening my own family carried on the tradition around our dining room table and one of our school-aged children defended someone we talked about.
Even though we sounded petty and it quit working as a way to feel better about myself, I didn’t stop. I seemed I couldn’t. The habit of comparing was so engrained by then that I compared even more and decided I wasn’t as bad about comparing myself as other people were.
Under all that pressure, I had to keep up being gooder than God and gooder than everyone I knew. The former was ridiculous. The latter offered up a new problem that while looking around to find who was doing worse than me, I also noticed anyone doing better.
I hoped church could help, but I didn’t like verses in the Bible that said our best compared to God’s best was like “filthy rags.” Or when our former pastor called us a ragtag army. Or all the times I heard we couldn’t do anything apart from God.
Anyway, that wasn’t true because I’d already proven my goodness by not drinking, smoking, or cursing except once, voted Most Dependable my senior year, going to church three times a week, volunteering at a nursing home, my list went on and on. That was, until I couldn’t maintain how good I was just like a recovering addict who can’t maintain their sobriety, an overeater who can’t keep their binging under control, a reformed complainer who can’t keep up their positive attitude.
What I did maintain was that I wasn’t as bad as them, well, except the times I threw a bathroom scale down our hallway, flung my brush at a mirror and broke it, and hurled a glass of orange juice across the dining room where I talked about being gooder.
Those moments didn’t soften my heart and make me humble. They pushed me to compare myself to others even more and try harder not to be like them and not be like who I was. They made me more determined to figure out what was wrong with me and root it out. They made me try harder to be gooder.
No matter how often I failed, I tried hard not to need Jesus because I wasn’t convinced He was as good as people said.
I wasn’t shaken enough to consider how much I needed Him until I heard what a counselor told the family of an alcoholic who recently entered a recovery program. The counselor met individually with family members to get an idea about family dynamics. Afterwards, he cautioned the parents that their daughter was more of a concern than their addicted son. It troubled him that she seemed unstable from trying hard to uphold her idea of a “white picket fence” life – a gooder life.
It seemed unfair that trying hard to be good turned out bad for her and for me until I recognized she and I probably worshipped the same thing, our own goodness. And nothing good comes from putting our goodness before His Godness.
“A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.” Brennan Manning
Stories like hers and the one our pastor told about Mother Teresa and Billy Graham helped me understand and accept the Truth. Did you know that both of them would have ended up in hell without Jesus? I wanted to defend their goodness and call it unfair for them too. Instead, I compared myself to them and came up short this time. In fact, I came up short and needing Jesus.
Not only am I not gooder than God and not gooder than other people, I’m not good at all without Him. Neither are any of us. By the way, this is good and holy news.
If we want a good life, we have to exchange all of our evidence that proves how good we are – our good Facebook posts, our hard work, the ways we’ve served others, money we’ve given away, judgment toward others, our accomplishments, activities, and awards – we have to exchange all of our goodness for His goodness that actually makes us good.
In This Together,