I used to think that I could be good enough to win someone’s love.
I was one of the good girls growing up. Motivated mostly by fear of punishment from my dad and disappointing my mom, I made every effort to follow all the rules and do the right thing. As I grew, my desire to be good reached beyond keeping my parents happy.
Being a good girl felt, well…good.
It won me approval, admiration, and even a few awards. Over the years, I absorbed the message that being good was necessary if I want to succeed in life, and more importantly, if I wanted to succeed at love.
Like many young women, I wanted to get married, have a family, and a happily-ever-after life. So I set out to be attractive enough and funny enough and smart enough, athletic enough, and whatever other “enoughs” deemed necessary to cause someone to fall in love with me.
For a while, trying hard to be good enough seemed to work.
For many years, my life looked exactly as I’d hoped it would. Happy marriage, three beautiful kids, friends, the kind of nice life that good girls create for themselves. I continued to think that I would somehow be protected from harm, disappointment, or loss as long as I was doing all the right things.
When I became a Christ-follower, I doubled down on this “good enough” way of thinking.
Now I had the Bible! A life manual filled with what it truly means to be good enough. Not only for my sense of self-worth and to win the hearts of others, but how to be good enough for God Himself! And it came with an added bonus: it was filled with Scripture that taught me how to apply God’s way of doing things in my relationships so they would be blessed and protected by Him. Here it was at last – my guarantee of happiness.
Well, guess what? 11 years ago, my marriage ended, and here is what I learned:
Yes, God’s Word does instruct us in how we are to live. But before we run off with those instructions, our whole-hearted relationship with Him has got to come first.
You see, God is never, ever interested in us simply following his rules, even if we could be good enough to follow every one of them perfectly. Scripture isn’t a prescription that comes with a guarantee for success and happiness. But there is good news!
When we enter into a relationship with God, our performing days are over.
We no longer need to worry about earning favor by being good enough. Because the only thing that’s good enough is God’s love for us. It saves us from our exhausting efforts to win over hearts and gain ground in our relationships. We can drop the “good girl” disguise because He sees us and loves us for who we truly are and who He’s created us to be.
Out of His love for us flows a more generous love for others.
A love that has no need to be selfish or conceited about its own goodness. A humble and vulnerable love that enables us to put others’ needs before our own because our needs are being met by God.
Looking back at younger me, I didn’t think my relationship with God was broken. But the truth is that it couldn’t function properly because I was afraid that I wouldn’t get what I wanted.
Instead of cultivating faith and trust in God, I took my list of what I wanted for my life– a happy home, a family, and a faithful, loving husband – and presented it to Him along with my ideas for how to make it happen. I asked for his blessing on my plans and efforts and returned to His word for help only when things went wrong.
We don’t have to be afraid to put God first in our lives.
Because He wants what’s best for us, too. He values loving relationships and created us with hearts that long for connection. But our capacity to give and receive love comes from Him, not through our own efforts. When we give Him the place of honor He deserves, He fills us up with what we need to love the people He puts in our path.
When we love God first, He supplies what we need to make our relationships with other people work.
We can’t ever be good enough to power through our relationships on our own. But with God at the center, things work properly. Not perfectly – sometimes things will still breakdown and we’ll suffer disappointment, sadness, and loss. But with the force of His love behind us, He keeps us moving steadily toward wholeness and joy. And that’s beyond good enough for me.
“We love because he first loved us.“
(1 John 4:19)