Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Grace for the Good Girl

The Book: Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman
Revell, $13.99 (2011)
That's right. Of all the things I could write about to kick off a brand new year, I'm doing a book review. What gives? Well, I actually read this book in 2011. And it rocked my world a bit, to put it mildly. After going back through parts of it again, I decided that I really needed to write about it for my first post of the year because this is one of those books that lays bare a lot of assumptions many of us have about the Christian life. As Emily Freeman shows us how God intends us to live in freedom and to depend on Him rather than to hide behind masks of various sorts, I find myself inspired to look at my life and to seek my identity in Christ more purposefully every time I look at this book.

The first part of the book focuses on what it means to be a "good girl," living on our own responsibility, our own accomplishments, or our own strength rather than accepting grace. Over several chapters Freeman shows how this mask wearing takes on different forms for different women, but at the heart of it, many of us focus on hiding our fears and weaknesses behind a smile, a good reputation, or a Martha-like work ethic rather than being open and letting God's grace pour in.

Freeman does a wonderful job of breaking down the different kinds of masks that some of us may hide behind. Not all will apply to everyone, but I know when I reached chapters such as "martha and my many things: hiding behind her acts of service," I'll admit that I squirmed a bit. I do tend to see practical needs or to focus on doing things too much sometimes and Freeman's reminder, backed up by Scripture, that Martha's worrying over many things is not the life we have in Christ, really struck a chord with me.

All my life, I grew up in the church. And at times I felt like I was really being good. I went to Bible study, I made dishes for the potluck, I prayed for the sick and had a cheerful smile for everyone at Sunday worship. In short, I was a "good girl." Yet there's a heart to that which is missing if we focus on hiding behind our masks of doing good and being responsible and fail to really let God into every bit of our lives - even the parts we're not so happy about. After all, we do not earn redemption through our own actions and we cannot by ourselves become righteous. And it is in trusting God completely that our walk with Him deepens and we embrace the gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ.

However, Freeman does not end by simply telling readers about the various masks. The remainder of the book deals with how we can respond to this gift of salvation that we have in Christ and be led to a more intimate relationship with God. The reassurance that we do not live on our own strength, but that we are safe in God when hard times come or when we fail, comforts deeply. The author clearly has a heart for encouraging women to live in grace and to seek their worth in God rather than to hide behind masks as they worry and seek self-worth in appearance or accomplishment.

Some testimonies out there involve harrowing tales of God's grace rescuing addicts, prostitutes and criminals from their sins. It can be hard to remember sometimes that we "good girls" need salvation and that we need to surrender to God, too. And since this world makes it so easy to get caught in the trap of thinking that we can earn our own way, this book's reminder to seek our identities in Christ is both challenging and encouraging. So if you're a good girl in search of grace and encouragement, I commend this read to you.

And if you enjoy the book, you can also find the author at her blog, Chatting at the Sky, where she talks about life and grace, and shares beautiful photographs.

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