Thursday, February 9, 2012

On being good

Holy cow, it's been about 9 months since I last blogged, and that is entirely too long! The problem is that I have way too much running around in my head, too many experiences, and constant lessons I'm learning that I just get overwhelmed when I try to write them down. However, I promised myself (and lots of people in the states) that I would be better about communication this year. While I don't place much stock in New Year's resolutions anymore - I think we start out setting ridiculously high goals for ourselves, failing to maintain or reach them, and then get depressed about how we never met those goals, and eventually completely forget - I did vow to myself that I would write a lot more this year. So far I have been doing that, even if it is fragmented musings on a myriad of topics, hopefully I can eventually piece them together and you'll be able to read some of them. I'm actually considering starting another blog where I just post my musings on life, relationships, and God, kinda separate from this one which is primarily about my work and experiences here in Tanzania and elsewhere. Actually this post kinda straddles the two categories.

*Disclaimer of sorts: In many of my previous posts, I tried to go light on the whole spiritual life thing, because I do have so many friends who don't believe all the same things as me, and I was concerned they wouldn't identify with that at all. However, I've realized that I can't extract my daily experiences and struggles from my relationship with Christ, and not sharing that would be untrue to who I am. That being said, I hope that you can still read this even if you don't identify yourself as a Christian, because maybe you can still find some hope within these words regardless of what you believe. 

I've been thinking a lot over the past few months about the notion of being "good", what that means, and if it's even possible for us as flawed human beings. Since moving to Tanzania, I have been referred to as "good" many times, or told that I am "a good person" by a number of people, and I never quite know how to respond to that. Somehow people think that my being in this position - moving overseas, choosing to work as a missionary instead making money, and living in a village with fewer resources - makes me a much better person than the average American. 

The thing is, I don't see it that way. While I may be sacrificing some things to be here, I know so many other people doing good in their own ways, in their own communities, and just because they don't live in another country or work with orphans doesn't mean they're any less "good" than I am. One of the reasons I've made the choice to do what I'm doing is that I'm simply not happy with a normal 9-5 job, and even though my primary aim in coming here was to work with the kids, there was also a need for adventure that fueled my drive to move overseas. Of course, I've been told that's a very self-serving reason to go into missions.

When I hear someone say that I'm good, my mind replays all the bad things I've done over the past few days and I think there's no way that can be true. I think, "I have so many downfalls", in fact, sometimes I'm selfish and I don't want to jump up when a kid injures himself and needs a bandage. Sometimes I get so frustrated by 25 children all saying my name over and over and telling me what they need all at the SAME TIME that I snap and yell at them. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a well-paying job with lots of international travel where I can live in a bustling city and wear fashionable clothes. Often I become impatient with the Americans, Tanzanians, and Kenyans I have to work with every day, and sometimes I complain about how much work I have to do, when in reality I'm surrounded by people who do back-breaking work for 10 hours every day so that they can simply manage to feed their families. I struggle with wanting to stay inside my room all day and only do things for myself instead of constantly giving to others, and there are days where I do just that, and then end up feeling guilty because I'm supposed to be here to serve other people and not myself. 
Therefore, my first instinct when someone says "Greta, you're so good", is to say "No, I'm not, only God is good", because all I can think about is how I am sinful and unworthy to be compared to the One who is truly good, and the Author of all good things. However, a dear friend reminded me just the other day that in spite of my shortcomings, God has renewed my heart and saved me from my sins, and therefore I am not bound by my failures or mistakes. As I have been working through this, what Paul wrote to the Roman Christians in Romans 8:1 came to mind:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Then later in verse 9, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you."

I think I was also afraid (knowing myself), that after hearing so many people tell me how good I am, that I would internalize that and start to dwell on it and see myself as so great, becoming proud and forgetting that it is only through Christ that I am made great. However, I am coming to understand that because of the new heart Christ has placed in me, one that is striving to love others without restraints, I may actually be good. Not because of anything that I have done, but because of what Christ has done in me. Not because I get everything right, but because I am striving to seek out what God has for me, and therefore God has brought me to this place where I am learning and growing so much. Even when I feel like there's no reason someone should refer to me as "good", it's because they aren't looking at me, but somehow they see Christ shining out of the cracks in this broken clay pot known as Greta Renae Ledyard. They see the work God is doing in me, and perhaps they are better at seeing the person I am becoming than I am.

I suppose my tendency towards pessimism and self-criticism leads me to believe the lie that I am not worthy of being called good, even though I am a child of God, and created in the likeness of the One who has redeemed me from my foul-ups. I am learning to see myself as others see me, and possibly how my heavenly Father sees me - as a beautiful, passionate woman who is serving God and others in the best way I know how, using my gifts to bless people and glorify my Father. The more I come to terms with this, the opposite of what I feared would happen is occurring: I am incredibly humbled that people view me that way and I only hope that I can live up to those perceptions. Every day I need to grab onto the truth that God is changing me and molding me in to who He wants me to be, and I need to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open so He can communicate with me during the process. 

So am I a good person? Yes, only through the power of Christ, I am becoming more like Him, which means I am, in fact, good.

It's awesome how God works in the small things, I was listening to Mute Math as I wrote this post, and their song "It's Ok" came on, and the lyrics were just so applicable. So, I think I'll leave you with these words:

Down on my knees, down on my face
You just say it's ok
So many days I've thrown away
You just say it's ok
I don't think I could ever repay
Your perfect grace, but it's ok

Your precious words intoxicate
A heart that aches; it's ok
You don't recall my past mistakes
You just say it's ok
The human mind can't calculate
Your perfect grace, but it's ok


shale said...

You are the only person I have ever told I would like to know twenty plus years from now. Do you remember I said that standing in TFI's kitchen? You have this aura of being centered, as someone having a core foundation as they move about and as you interact with others.
I love the statement that what others are calling 'good in you' is the love of Christ you carry within. I truly believe Christ lives within all of us and many do not acknowledge Him but the beauty is that He never leaves us.
Those moments of 'not wanting to do this, go there, listen to' is normal. You are not a mom, trust me all of that changes when you become a parent.
I still find you very interesting and I hope I am still living (God be willing) and we still have some form of contact.
I remember being at a stage in my life (before kids and hubby) when I toiled with who, what, why? I first answered who I was not, what I did not stand for, and why. The rest of it I left for the journey. Enjoy the journey!

Kansas said...

awesome greta. thank you for sharing <3 its a great truth to be reminded of

Meg said...

I appreciated your thoughts because I've struggled with the whole "being good" concept myself. Well put!