Grace for the Good Girl :: Chapters 15 & 16

It’s hard to read your own book, kind of like hearing your own voice on voicemail – you can’t pay attention to the message because do I really sound like that?! Last night, though, I just sat and read like someone else wrote it.

I cried twice.

And because I’m a person who strongly believes we need to pay attention to what makes us cry, I made note of the exact paragraphs that brought the tears. The first was in chapter 15, at the end of the very true story of how my unwillingness (or perhaps inability) to grieve the loss of that high school relationship caused me to carry around a wound inside for many years.

This is one of the sections in the book that I could hardly write fast enough to keep up with the thoughts. I wasn’t near a computer so I had to settle for a nearby notebook that, if you can believe it, was already filled. So I wrote this broken relationship section in scribbled script on the cardboard backing of this old notebook. This story, of all the stories in the book, is the one that kept me awake at night after I turned in the manuscript. Though it was easy to write, it was hard to make peace with leaving it in a book that would be available wherever books are sold. I think this is why:

“The fact that I needed healing did not mean I was horrible; it meant I was human. We all share a common frailty, but the good girl won’t let me take part. She has both held me back from facing weakness and shoved me forward to fake strong.”

This story highlights my own frail humanity. We don’t get to choose the life situations that weaken our knees. But if we ignore them or deny them, they will eventually find their way to the surface.

The second place I cried was in chapter 16. I think Jane’s story is one of the most important in the book. So many women legitimately struggle with the voice of the good girl in their heads but they discount it because they think they are somehow disqualified from connecting with the good girl struggles because they only identify with their own mistakes.

Many (and I mean many) women have told me they almost didn’t read the book because they always saw themselves as more of a “bad girl” growing up and didn’t think they would connect with the concept of the good girl. I knew that would be one of the downsides of titling the book the way we did. But we all have our things – our heartaches and histories, our grievances and guilts, our loneliness and coping and sin. Jane was as good girl as they come, not because of the decisions she made but because of way she saw God, the world, and herself. And it all needed healing.

Preston Gillham’s words resonate so deeply with me they still bring tears.

“Worry and fear are simply the belief that I have gotten myself into a place where God is not. And so that brings us to the truth, that God, through his determination to share his heart with me, was willing to go to my ungracious place to be with me. He would rather die than live without me, even if it means ungracious places.”

Presten Gillham, Grace in Ungracious Places

One of the reasons I stayed stuck in my good girl confusion for so long is that the territory surrounding me felt overwhelmingly ungracious. The obstacle course of performance and pleasantries was so intricate that the thought of retracing my steps through all of that mess to even get close to where I thought God was standing seemed too impossible. I think Jane felt that way, too.

That’s why Jesus came to us, right where we stood in the midst of the mess, no matter what that mess looks like.

group discussion

The last four chapters of the book focus on the freedom of being found, how we are safe even in the midst of fear, failure, and feelings. The title of chapter 15 is Safe, Even When it Hurts. I was surprised that something as seemingly small as an unresolved high school relationship could follow me around for so long. Can you think of a time when you were unexpectedly forced to confront your own frail humanity? 

One of the good girl’s most basic fears is failure. It takes different shapes and forms and may have varying degrees of consequence, but failure is part of our human condition. Do you recognize your own ungracious places and how is Jesus showing himself to you in the midst of them?

book club information

  • We only have one week left, but if you are just now seeing these book club posts, here is where you can get a copy of a book (AmazonB&NLifeWayFamily Christian).
  • If you have blog, consider writing your own post and hosting discussion with your readers. Link up in the linky below directly to the post you’ve written about this weeks reading, not just to your main blog. We want to make it easy to find your thoughts.

On Thursday August 2nd, I will be at Westover Church at 7pm in Greensboro, NC to share some stories and meet anyone who might be able to make it. I realize most of you live way too far to join us, but if you plan to come, send an email to emily at chatting at the sky dot com. Hope to see you there.

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  1. says

    “Many (and I mean many) women have told me they almost didn’t read the book because they always saw themselves as more of a “bad girl” growing up and didn’t think they would connect with the concept of the good girl.”

    Hmm…A friend found your book a few months ago and we talked about reading it, but felt we had too much of a ‘former life’ for it to be really applicable. But I’m starting to see that the voice of the good girl actually started in full force when I became a believer. I’ll have to pick it up. :)

    • says

      oh yes. Don’t we all have a ‘former life’ really? So much of the good girl mess starts when we make it into church no matter what our past looks like. I’ve received hundreds of emails from women who didn’t think they were “good girls” but then they read and realize what I mean by it. Changes everything.

  2. says

    I cried through Chapter 16, highlighted the parts that flayed my heart open in the post I just linked up and you and I almost wrote the exact same sentence . . . about God standing in the midst of our mess. I’m giving away a copy of your book today on my blog because its transformational truth that sets people free. I wrote about my relationship with my emotionally distant father today and it was a struggle as to whether or not I should hit publish. I’ve had an outpouring of response, admonitions by many that they have walked through the same thing too. For this, I am thankful. And so thankful that you wrote that book.

  3. says

    Emily, thank you for just the right words to lovingly nudge me to the pages of this book. I had wanted to be a part of the bookclub as a reader, but have not actually read it. I have benefitted though from your posts and following some of the discussion here. I now feel lead to go buy my copy and begin. Thanks for your words today. There was just something today in your words that struck me in love today, so off I will soon go to buy my book. And my heart’s desire is to be in Greensboro though I will wait to be counted in when I am certain.

  4. Rebecca says

    I read your book this spring and it was so life giving. I could relate to just about everything you wrote, and kept thinking, “Wow, someone really gets me.” I do remember crying at the second page, “the best part of hiding is being found.” I have lived the good girl/overachiever/perfectionist way my whole life, but I feel like in the last few years I am finding myself and allowing others to find me, the real me, too. Thank you so much for your book and this blog.

  5. says

    Yes, yes and yes. I have words but they are muddled and confused and so I can only thank you for opening your heart to us in these chapters, and sharing so much of yourself. I want to blog on this but there is much to process and I don’t want it to be an incoherent mess so … yes, yes, and yes.

  6. says

    ok…these chapters felt like you had gone to meddlin’ as they say around here. it took the bravery of another blogger to finally post my own reflections. these chapters left me feeling naked and vulnerable and led me to yet another epiphany about myself and God. thank you again emily for sharing your story, the stories of others, and your gift of words in this book.

    looking forward to God putting me back together again.

  7. Abigail says

    I am just now going through this “summer” book club, reading “Grace” for the second time. I just finished chapter 16 this morning, and I cried so hard.

    When you talk about being hurt by the failure of others, I wonder if you meant my kind of hurt, the hurt that comes not because someone “did me wrong,” but simply because someone did wrong; they didn’t live up to my own high standards. And I can’t forgive them for that. It sounds awful and nasty, but there it is. God forgive me.

    It’s so hard to let go of those rights! The right to be the good and wise one, the one with all the answers and the future full of right decisions. Such a daily struggle. Thank God I don’t have to bear it alone!

    Emily, I can’t thank you enough for breaking my heart with this book.

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