M makes a great comment about “good girls” and “wild girls”:
‘Both bring struggles with them- the good one must be good all the time or else she is a failure; the wild child feels like she’s stuffed it up anyway so may as well continue, no matter how self destructive.’This may remind you of the story Jesus tells about the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15:11-32. In it we meet a man with two sons. The younger demands his share of his inheritance while his father is still living, and goes off to a distant country where he spends it all on wild living, and eventually has to take work as a swine herder .There he comes to his senses, and determines to return home and throw himself on his father’s mercy. But when he returns home, his father greets him with open arms, and hardly gives him a chance to express his repentance; he runs to meet him and kills a fatted calf to celebrate his return. The older brother becomes jealous at the favored treatment of his faithless brother and upset at the lack of reward for his own faithfulness. But the father takes the older brother aside and says, ‘All I have is yours – but this son of mine was lost and now is found’.
Particularly in a Christian context, it might be easier to think that the ‘good girl’ label is the better one. But I wonder if that is really the case. The ‘elder sister’ may just as enslaved as her prodigal sibling – just to more acceptable behaviours. If my goal in attending the prayer meeting or running the creche is to be seen to be ‘good’ or to bolster my self-esteem, then my heart looks perilously close to that of the compulsive shopper that I’m so quick to condemn.
The best exposition of this story comes I think, from a book called ‘The Prodigal God’, by Tim Keller.
Here’s what he says;
‘There are two ways to be your own Savior and Lord. One is by breaking all the moral laws and setting your own course, and one is by keeping all the moral laws and being very, very good.
Jesus does not divide the world into the moral “good guys” and the immoral “bad guys.” He shows us that everyone is dedicated to a project of self-salvation, to using God and others in order to get power and control for themselves. We are just going about it in different ways.
…The gospel is distinct from the other two approaches: In its view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, and everyone is called to recognize this and change. By contrast, elder brothers divide the world in two: “The good people (like us) are in and the bad people, who are the real problem with the world, are out.” Younger brothers, even if they don’t believe in God at all, do the same thing, saying: “No, the open-minded and tolerant people are in and the bigoted, narrow-minded people, who are the real problem with the world, are out.”
So where does this leave us? As M writes,
“for some women, the.. really tragic things that have happened to them that mean that simply declaring God’s truth and telling them to think differently is so very damaging. ..they also need the gentle acknowledgement of the brokenness of this world and the way that the sin of others can strip us of our sense of self and blind us to the joy of experiencing Christ’s love to the full.”
Given that faith comes by hearing, it is as we declare the gospel that we believe it and are changed. But the way in which we declare it is perhaps as important as the fact that we do.