|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.13(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
In the midst of a most beautiful wedding ceremony, you find yourself among joyful family and friends. As the usher escorts you past each pew, you notice that the church is filled to capacity. He motions for you to take a seat, right up front. The décor is impeccable, and the ambiance is breathtaking! All the guests show up in their best, exchanging admirations and congratulations for such a special day. You are honored to have been invited; and you, like everyone else, stand at the music's call for the bride to enter. As most people do, you steal a quick look at the groom who is front and center, waiting to receive his bride. He looks proud and handsome and confident. "I bet he's going to cry when she walks in," you think to yourself.
With a rush of wind, the doors open, and the bride stumbles into the chapel, laughing obnoxiously over her own clumsiness. Stumbling down the aisle in a dingy dress, she is tattered and dirty from the hem up. Her hair is disheveled and undone; her lipstick is smeared and chipped fingernails dangle from her hands. It is clear to you that literally, she must have just rolled out of bed.
"She looks a hot mess," you hear someone behind you whisper. Sad to say, but true, you agree. She finally makes it to the altar and reluctantly takes the hand of her groom. On what should be her most perfect day, she complains during her nuptials and winks at other men as her betrothed lovingly and sincerely expresses his love for her. She begins to yawn in front of all of her guests, impatiently waiting for the ceremony to come to a close. She admires her ring and watches it gleam in the light, but she's unconcerned with her groom. She pulls out her cell phone and begins to scroll while saying a quick, "I love you, too." It's not a pretty picture, is it? Odds are, you might even feel uncomfortable at the thought of even attending a wedding like this. Maybe, if you were one of the guests, you'd have serious concerns, not for the bride, but the groom.
Regardless of this bride's seeming lack of love and sincerity, her groom continues with his vows, to your dismay. He patiently waits for his bride to participate with her whole heart. He stays committed and expresses his love for the whole world to see, in spite of how slack she is in her disregard towards him.
"Unbelievable," you think to yourself. From the corner of your eye, you notice some guests getting up to leave. It's clear that they came to see something real. They thought they would be witnesses to the real deal — a true ceremony of love, but instead, all they see is someone unprepared and insincere. She is merely going through the motions. Inside, you are dying from such a spectacle. You are uncomfortable, and you want to leave, too. How could anyone go through all the trouble of announcing an engagement and preparing for a wedding with such a questionable attitude? Don't judge too hastily. Imagine yourself as that sort of bride.
We are all imperfect. We all have tattered hearts and ragged places from mistakes made in fleeting moments or circumstances we wish we could have avoided. Yet these realities don't disqualify us from God's perfect love. He longs to mend what's been broken, beaten and bruised, and He asks us to allow His goodness to heal us, instead of us trying and striving to cover up the truths of who we are and what we are dealing with. Our redemption requires more than good deeds or personal improvements. Our wholeness is dependent on God's love and His goodness. But are we truly living our lives believing this truth?
I have concerns about young women in my generation — those who claim the name of Christ, yet are not actively preparing themselves to be united with Him in glory. Like this bride, there are so many Christians in our culture who live out of excuses handed to them by the world and take advantage of the spiritual gift of grace. We've become comfortable in our brokenness, but that is not the abundant life Christ desires to give us. Each of us, in some way or another, have conformed to the world's standards, trading the eternal goodness of Christ for a version of our own, and therefore sacrificing the power of God in our daily living. A dying world is looking at the habitual compromise of Christians with uncertain agony. They see the scriptures we post on our social media pages, but then they notice we are still promoting promiscuity in the way we dress and in the way we date. They see we are still bashing our husbands or excusing bad habits. With hands lifted high, we profess Christ with our lips, but not our hearts. The world sees our hypocrisy and onlookers are confused and painstakingly uncomfortable with the display of "Christianity" that some of us portray. They came to see a wedding with true love and real hope and genuine faith in Christ. They came to see restoration, and forgiveness and the beauty of grace through Jesus. But sometimes, I wonder, what do they really see? I'm concerned that some of us don't even realize we look a hot mess!
But God's goodness changes everything! It's His life and His light that restores our hearts to reflect His own. Yes, we each hope to be "good women," "good daughters," "good wives," and just plain "good people", but is that really all we're living for? Is that all that we are striving after in the midst of cultural conflict and uncertain times? As Christian women, what is our purpose? Is it just to go to church? Is it merely to try and fit in some Bible reading time a few days a week? Is it only to do good things and say kind words? The truth be told; you don't have to be a Christian to do those things! In fact, there are many different faiths that teach similar "Christian" values. There are unspoken social rules that praise you for doing what is kind and fair and condemn you for anything less. Even good-natured atheists make an effort of performing good routines in their own lives without the salvation of Jesus or the influence of the Holy Spirit.
So, when you think about it, doing good things is not the epitome of the Christian's purpose. Our good deeds do not give us more validity before God than the deeds of those who are not Christians, and our temptations and brokenness are not fouls that disqualify us from our faith. We have been called to live above the positives and negatives that seek to distract us from our true purpose. Our real identity is never based on our efforts to be good. We consider ourselves "good girls," but our own goodness does not result in holiness. Only the presence of Jesus can bring this. Only His purity and perfection can change our hearts.
I gave my life to Christ as a child, but it wasn't until I was twenty-four that I came into a true relationship with Jesus. Throughout high school and college, I claimed His name but did not reflect His heart. I did not represent Him well. I know I am not alone. Many of us are guilty of having claimed to know a God with whom we didn't truly have a relationship with; perhaps the relationship wasn't much because we just didn't know any better or because we were trying to live by rules in our own strength. Regardless of the reason, who we say we are living for and how we live must line up. Jesus is coming back! He promised us He would come for us in John Chapter 14. But are we living out our lives in preparation for THE BIG DAY? Are our earthly relationships marked by the fruit of the Spirit? Are our thoughts aligned with the promises of God? Sadly, if we are honest, the answer might be "no." Sadly, if we are honest, some of us are living our lives in dingy dresses.
Like you, there are many lessons that the Lord is teaching me. Some of them I have to keep learning over and over again as I grow in God's grace. None of us are perfect, after all. But in our learning, let's never overlook the importance of representing Christ well. Each of us is a bride! Even if you are not married, each day of your life is preparation for a wedding with the Lord. And our daily choices, attitudes, and conversation should serve as an invitation to those around us that they ought to be preparing themselves for this wedding, as well. When we name the name of Christ, there should be more to it than mere Christian platitudes or churchy lingo; it should be real! The lives we live should be filled with the hope and faith that Jesus is the answer for all of our hearts' needs. Loving Jesus and sharing His love is not about our own goodness; it's about His, and it is our calling to live this out with sincerity and grace from the Holy Spirit.
As women of the Lord, we are called to be a sweet-smelling fragrance wherever we go.
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 says, "But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, he has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume. As far as God is concerned there is a sweet, wholesome fragrance in our lives. It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and the unsaved all around us. To those who are not being saved, we seem a fearful smell of death and doom, while to those who know Christ we are a life-giving perfume" (TLB).
Our lives are not offensive, but sweet. Will we offend? Sometimes. But the offense should be caused by the conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit who uses our sincere love and obedience to Christ as a way to prick the hearts of those who do not yet believe.
Living out a prosperous walk in Christ means a change in our entire existence such that we begin to operate in the fullness of our calling and the freedom of God's love. This walk comes not because our attempts at "goodness" impress Christ, but because He is intensely in love with us and invites us to experience His goodness in every area of life. As we sojourn through these pages together, my desire is that we will begin to take a look at where we are in Christ and devote our time and attention to praying over where we would like to be. At no time should we find ourselves satisfied as if we've made it. Our heart's desire should always be, "Give me more of Jesus!" But we don't have to be fanatical or get all weird about this. God invites us to be who we are because He made us, and He alone truly knows us. But we do need to come to the understanding that being a spotless bride is not something we can accomplish outside of Christ. We can't attain that status on our own. We do not have what it takes to be pleasing and perfect in the eyes of God. On our own, we are not good. As the Bible states in Romans 3:10 "No one is good — no one in all the world is innocent" (TLB). And I'm sure we all have past personal stories to prove it! We are truly broken people, yet a ferociously loving God dearly loves each of us. We are valued, called, and given purpose, in Jesus' name. Know that these truths can only be ignited and fulfilled once we enter into a relationship with a Savior who gives us all of His goodness in exchange for our dinginess.
Questions for Discussion
1. What were your thoughts about the example of the bride with the dingy dress? In what ways did the literal and spiritual implications reflect on your relationship with Christ?
2. In your walk with Christ, what lessons are you learning? How are these lessons shaping your natural and spiritual life?
3. Have you ever experienced the pressure of trying to be a "good girl?" In what ways has the label of "good girl" hindered you from a living a life of grace in Christ?
My parents taught me about patience and waiting on the Lord. They taught me scripture and how to pray for God's will, but in my haste to be important, I resisted what I knew from them and exchanged it for what I wanted. And what I wanted was to be seen.
Neon lights always seem intriguing from afar, as do the lures of lust and social acceptance. This allure for acceptance deceived me in ways I never expected. Deeds done in secret feel fun for a while. Life was all cool and exciting, and I felt I belonged for a time. But the problem with neon lights is that they don't illuminate very much. Shadows slip in under the dim glow, and though you can see, there is no vision. The neon lights of this world beckon our attention, but they are so deceptive. Many of us have fallen into the trap of being persuaded by the glow and enticed by the shadows that assure secret pleasures and empty promises of no regrets. But when the true light shines, and night turns into day, our deeds done in shadows shame us and we cower deeper into hiding.
"We 're not bad people," we tell ourselves. "We've done nothing worse than anyone else." So we glance around trying to find someone guiltier than we are, and we clench to the checklists we measure ourselves by, like security blankets. We seek proof that we are still "good girls." We compare ourselves to others to tear them down and lift ourselves up. We believe the lies that good intentions are enough for righteousness. Though our standards shake underneath our hypocrisy, we insist we will do better and get ourselves together. We have all been there. We have all been victims of bad choices, shaky excuses, regrets, guilt and shame. We have all spent time in the dark. Maybe some of us are still there.
To be honest, my time in the dark was terrifying, because I knew the truth. I am a pastor's daughter, after all. My sweet parents instilled scripture and Biblical knowledge in me as I grew up. I attended a primary private school and was allotted a Biblical education. I knew all about Jesus and the cross, God, and the devil. I knew the facts, but I didn't receive them as applicable truths in my life for a time. Upon entering college, I chose to live in unbelief. Although I would have said I was a Christian, my choices proved otherwise. The thoughts I harbored and the attitude I flaunted were all contrary to the love of Christ. Deep down, I knew I wasn't pleasing God, but I didn't have a hunger to change. So I sat in back pews and allowed my mind to wonder in other directions. I'd flip through the pages of scripture without real understanding of what I read. On the surface, I was the picture of perfection compared to others in the college culture. I was innocent of certain social sins — you know the ones: sex, drugs, and drunkenness; I avoided these like the plague. Virginity was my trophy, and I paraded it around, as if it made me perfect — it didn't. It's a pure heart that God is after, and mine was far from it. I was guilty and ashamed, but unsure of how to be truly free. I made good grades. I had pretty friends. I drove a decent car, and I wore nice clothes. I draped myself with external façades of righteousness, and my pretense was so comfortable, no one needed to know I was a fake — a real hypocrite. In church, I raised my hands, and I sang choruses in soprano of words I'd memorized but did not live out. People admired me for my abstinence, and I served my volunteer roles with smiles. But, I was most unsatisfied, even with my "good girl" label. The masks I wore appeared beautiful, but it was all a lie.
Sooner or later, life has a way of exposing unstable foundations. As the truth emerged from underneath my pretenses, everything began to collide for me. I could no longer handle all that I knew I should be and all I was trying to be. My hypocrisy brought me to my knees at a point in my life where I was losing all hope. At the peak of my loneliness and the climax of my brokenness, God saved me. And I will never fully grasp why.
It's taken the entire decade of my twenties to accept God's love for me. The last decade of my life has truly molded me to acknowledge that there is a loving God who has more for me than I thought I wanted for myself. I now seek Him beyond my wish list and have learned how to encounter Him in the living of each day. I invite Him into the content of every decision and the internal motives of my heart. It took my darkest moment for God to shine His brightest light, and drive all of my shadows away.
There was definitely a long span of time when I wanted nothing to do with the life that I now live. I was running in the opposite direction, trying to stay afloat by what I presumed a "good girl" was supposed to be. To the beholder, I was as innocent as they come, but my heart was weighed down with selfish ambition. I suffered silently as I attempted to ease my conscience of a life apart from the experience of a relationship with God. Makeup didn't cover up the impurities that I tried to excuse away. Fashion didn't free me from my secret struggles. Vanity and vain pursuits were my closest companions, but they took from me more than I wanted to give. The Bible tells us that, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30 NASB). I learned this scripture in the fifth grade, but I had no idea what it meant. Throughout college, I looked for ways to get praise and tried to create a sense of beauty through my own goodness. All these efforts left me in great need.
Excerpted from "Beyond Being Good"
Copyright © 2018 Katrina McCain.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 Works in Progress
Chapter 1 Dingy Dresses 3
Chapter 2 Neon Lights 11
Chapter 3 Bathroom Prayers 21
Chapter 4 Resolving Isn't Easy 35
Chapter 5 Combatting Our Compromise 51
Chapter 6 Woman to Woman 73
Part 2 Transformations
Chapter 7 From Fear to Faith 111
Chapter 8 The Beauty of Rejection 137
Chapter 9 A Journey with Jesus 171
Chapter 10 Encouragement from Yours Truly 203
All My Love to You: Acknowledgements 219
About the Author 223