Devotions for Bad Girls, From a Bad Girl | When you learn to be okay with being "bad
Since before I can remember, I've always felt "bad". Maybe I didn't always FEEL bad, but I think there was always some haunting label that followed me around from way back...in church, in school, on the Internet, in my acquaintances Happy Hour convos, and elsewhere.
I think I'm one of those humans that has always just processed a negative response, gossip, labels, and misunderstanding of who I am/why I am/how I do what I do, pretty deeply. You know, like I actually take it, process it, analyze it...which all ends up with my internal conversation reverting to "You're not [doing] good enough, Ciara". I mean, even back when I was a kid, I remember taking simple discipline from my parents, like "Ciara, you really need to stop talking so much in class," as, "Ciara, you are not a good student, and we are so disappointed in you."
Fast forward to 22, a girl friend of mine has hurt feelings because she felt I didn't spend enough time with her, and I'm still translating that as "I don't want to be your friend anymore, Ciara".
I don't know why my mind has been like that. Some deep rooted something or other, or maybe it's just my specific wiring (I've come to the answer to that question...but I'm saving it for later posts. Stay with me. ;)) There will be more than enough of me sharing my own personal stories in posts to come and I don't want to corner myself in to feeling the need to share everything from age 3-27 here in this initial post, but I'll share one story and then tell you why I'm even taking the jump into writing this series.
If you've grown up in church like I have, you already know the ins and outs of "YOUTH GROUP". From the dim lights during the sad songs, the mass "come to Jesus" roll call at the end of church summer camp, thumb tacking your last BIG SIN to a cross on the stage in front of everyone to show optimal remorse, to the pressure of always trying to convince your youth pastor and your friends that you are not doing everything they accuse you of.
Well, you may or may not have had experience with that last one, but let me tell you...I think that's the biggest "negative" that I carried with me through my teens and into my early adulthood. I was not one of the young teens doing drugs and hooking up in secrecy. Rather, I had a pretty healthy fear of anything addictive and I was such a tomboy, I think my guy friends and I were more concerned with when our next game of football in the field behind church was going to be rather than if we thought each other were hot. I loved the Lord, I loved youth group, I loved playing keyboard in the worship band (thank GOD there are no videos from that. Picture Ross in that one episode of Friends and add in some Nickelback and you get what I feel is a pretty accurate mental image of our youth group band)...yeah, I just loved church. Unfortunately, no amount of love I had for the church (and for the people that the church was composed of) could save me from the continual judgement of my clothes, my body shape, my friendly personality, or even the way I ate.
*will elaborate in future posts
Without going too much into the whys and whats and tempting myself to turn this into a defensive tangent, let's just say that an innocent young girl who's last thought on her mind was about sex was constantly being told that that is what she was trying to tempt the boys and men in church into. This was extremely difficult for me as my mom was the one with the final say on which clothes were purchased and what I left the house in. She was "strict Asian" mom, but more so, she cared about me leaving the house looking presentable and "modest"...so coming to church hitting even more "approval hurdles" was just not something that any young girl should experience. I wanted to enjoy my friendships with my guy friends (AND girl friends) without someone turning a hug goodbye, a smile, or a walk to Taco Bell into sexual sin.
Speaking honestly here (and not writing purely based on emotion), this is where a lot of my insecurity and shame stemmed from and it saved me hundreds on counseling to finally be able to realize (and ACCEPT) that their judgements and opinions of me were NOT GOD'S.
There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? [James 4:12]
They labeled me a bad girl.
Okay. I can take that.
Even though at that point in my life, I didn't understand why I was "reaping" something I wasn't "sowing", throughout the years up to this very day, I've made many mistakes, sinned countless sins, and I know there will be more.
I AM a bad girl. But I'm a bad girl that has been Saved, by Grace, through Faith. I have no pride in my own ability to "be good", because I was "good" by all worldly standards and that didn't last long. At the age of 25, I was posting images on a paid membership website (that I personally founded and operated) that were in no way glorifying to God or His work in my life. There is absolutely no way I can justify those actions and choices as "good". I was not a good person, and honestly, I'm still not a good person.
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one...
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin. [Romans 3:9-20 MSG]
I'm a woman that depends every day on God to heal the broken parts of my heart, of my mind, and of my view of myself. Yeah, I am a bad girl...but there is SO much more to who I am than that. I'm redeemed and currently on the journey of Sanctification.
And I'm sure of this, that He who created a good work in you will finish it to completion... [Philipians 1:6]
THIS is why I've titled this series as I have. I embrace the label. What others have used to harm me, God has made good. I have chosen (and will continue to choose) to no longer allow my past and my pain to be shackles, but to be the catalyst of sharing my story in the hopes and faith that God will use it to be beneficial in your life.
"I tell you", he replied, "if they keep [she kept] quite, even the stones would cry out" [Luke 19:40]
Whatever you have been labeled, you are not alone.
not Christian enough
not fun enough
Remember at the beginning of this post when I said my self talk usually auto pilots to "You are not [doing] good enough"? Let's remember and embrace that we will NEVER do good enough. That's the best part. We are not responsible for being good enough to enter Heaven and spend eternity in bliss with our Creator. If that were the case, how screwed would we all be?! He handled the cost for us to be justified, now we get to accept His hand in showing us The Way. No more "doing good". No more focus on the legalism I know a lot of us have experienced. In the same breath, we will not allow a watered down interpretation of the gospel to keep us content in our "well, at least I'm not as bad as her" justification of our lifestyle.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. [Galatians 2:20]
Disclaimer: While I hope my writing and sharing serves to offer some freedom from the shackles of shame, I want to be sure that we know this is not written to pacify harmful behavior, addictions, or encouraging you to "thrive" in sinfulness.
I pray that His grace and His love for you is what shines over and through anything you read here on out. I am not the most talented writer, and most times, I'm just writing the stream of words that flow through my head while I'm looking at my screen. Usually, they just stay as jumbled as they are in my head. I know that if it's His will, they will make TOTAL sense to you. <3
Let's just take it one post at a time, and as always, I'd love to hear from you. Good, bad, questions comments...leave them below.