Why I’m Done With Being Good

by | Jun 25, 2012 | Uncategorized


I walk across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. It sits behind the house my mother and I rent, the one with the uneven floors and cockroaches coming out the wall sockets. A single mom lives there with a young son. She sunbathes in baby oil on a towel in the dandelion grass during the summer. She has something she wants to show us.

When we walk inside the tiny living room, she reveals all the clothes she successfully stole that day. She holds them up to her with tags on as if she won the lottery. I feel like I want to throw up.

Later that week I’ll pass classmates walking the halls of high school that left my house in the early morning hours of marijuana haze, while I lay frozen awake in a bed of worry. We’ll act like we don’t know each other.

I grow up learning how to live by watching people make bad choices and decide the way to earn the nod of God is to be good. To make good choices, do the right thing. I mean surely I will make it to the front half of the line to heaven because God grades on a curve. Right?

I think of this when I hear the pastor say, “Nowhere in the bible does it say that we have to be good to be in relationship with Jesus. There is no curve. And you are comparing yourself to the wrong standard because what standard is good enough?”

Is it Mother Teresa, the Pope, Martin Luther?

I feel good when I compare myself to the lowest common denominator of humanity, guilt-ridden when it’s great men and women of faith. But the standard isn’t goodness, its righteousness and God is the standard. (Romans 3:10)

I’ve grown up a window watcher to understanding life, learning from the actions of others on couches of noble conversation, pleading silent for them to show me what to do to live happy free. And in my quest for understanding on the cushioned seats of worship, I miss the fine print.  Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. (Romans 3:23-26)

After I grasp the diploma, land the first job, move across the country, and join a church, all my good girl doing ends stretched out around a pool face down in Co-dependent No More. Tears of surrender stream hot behind sunglasses, down sun-kissed cheeks.

At the point of my greatest bankruptcy, right there on a lawn chair altar, he marks my debt: Paid In Full. His life in exchange for mine. I didn’t have to do anything at all, just accept it.

And perhaps this is the hardest lesson of all, this undoing the message of doing to be acceptable.  Because the power of salvation isn’t my faith, it’s in the object of my faith. I can’t add to or take away from the gift of eternal life.

What about you, do you have a hard time believing you don’t have to do anything to earn favor with God?

I’m counting thanks with Ann today for Multitudes on Monday:

·  For the gift of eternal life, because it’s free and I don’t have to do anything to earn it.

·   The way my boy returns from camp happy and walking tall like he grew in years of wisdom.

·   A quiet Sunday to read and rest.

·   For doctors who make house calls on a Saturday morning.

·   Sore muscles from working in the yard, the good kind of sore.

·   A gorgeous day at the beach for H’s birthday.

·   A pastor who reads my blog and says, “Keep writing.”

Linking with Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, Miscellany Monday, Soli Deo Gloria, Just Write, Playdates With God.

Subscribe for Shelly’s stories and free resources here: https://shellymillerwriter.com/free-resources/


  1. nonoymanga

    Nicely done!!! Cheers Nonoy Manga

  2. Robin

    Shelly thank you for opening your life to us. To be so transparent. You are so very gifted in your writing. Praying the Lord will open doors for your book writing.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Appreciate your support and encouragement Robin, more than you know. I guess before He opens the doors, I have to move the resistance out of the way that keeps me from starting!:)

  3. r.elliott

    My hubby and I were just talking about this today…I used to be….give me ten steps to follow…principles to live by…I was like a circus dog, I jumped through so many hoops. Oh yes…religion is about doing…performance instead relationship. Shelly…wonderful, honest post…I love to hear how God’s grace has come and filled and healed your soul holes from those young years. Glory to God…blessings to you~

    • Redemption's Beauty

      We take such comfort in the lists, knowing what to do in order to be acceptable. It seems so much easier to let that go, so why do we make it so hard? I’m grateful for redemption Ro, so grateful. Thank you for noticing.

  4. consolationofmirth

    So good. This brought tears to my eyes: “At the point of my greatest bankruptcy, right there on a lawn chair altar…” There are many things I can relate to, so I read your post three times.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love it when God uses my frailty to speak to someone. Thankful that God met you here Heather.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I really can’t take credit. The pastor I listened to on Sunday shared those words and they resonate don’t they? And yes, be-ing not doing, and resting in peace with that. It’s the way I want to live. The pictures were taken in and around London and Scotland. Love all those beautiful window boxes.

  5. Diana Trautwein

    Ah, yes. The curse of doing good. Thank you for these lovely insights – and thank your pastor who inspired them. Would that be your husband?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      On this occasion it was not my husband Diana. We visited another church on Sunday where they have a new pastor who is truly anointed to teach. He brings what we already know alive again.

  6. elizabethfstewart

    I want to share this post…so good,

  7. Dave Vander Laan

    Shelly, God has reminded me in the past 18 month of exactly what you write about: It is not what I have done that has made me right with God; it is what Christ has done for me.

    This post falls into the category of allowing the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel to myself.

    Thanks for you words – and yes, please keep writing!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Dave, thanks so much for stopping by, what a pleasure to see you here in the comments. We are continually re-learning from that which we already know aren’t we? At least I hope so anyway. So glad the Holy Spirit opened truth to you here, what a gift that is to me.

  8. lolitavalle

    I had to be still before I can ever say something, Shelly.

    I have been co-dependent, mostly in my attachment to my family. But I am learning to break-away, even if I am still with them.

    I have been the bread winner because my husband lost his job and he did not really find something that is stable. Once in a while he has some short-term contracts, but not for long.

    God has given me good jobs and I have a few bookkeeping part-time work, and some volunteering work with a child sponsorship in Church with love gifts.

    For a long time I had been miserable but I learned (intentionally) to chose to look at it as God’s gift to me, being able to provide and the strength and patience it develops in me, makes me humble and joyful. So I chose to be grateful and happy. My outlook changed and I am happier even if his dreamed of job is nowhere to be found…. a matter of attitude and in His grace.

    Anyway, I celebrate the meeting I had with the Lord, I can be teachable and content…. and growing. I have been redeemed too.

    Thank you, Shelly for sharing to us, part of your life. It encourages me so much.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      The more you share, the more of God’s heart you reveal Lovita. Your outlook and faith is refreshing. So glad we found each other.

  9. Sharita

    Shelly, this is great. I sometimes get caught in the mess of not necessarily trying to be good, but definitely the comparison game, kind of like you mentioned comparing yourself to the “lowest” so that means you are good enough.

    The bottom line is the same of all of us: The cross was enough. End. Of. Story. Thanks for sharing your heart! It blessed me!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think the comparison game is common to all. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t struggled with doing it. And I am so struck recently about this revelation that I don’t need to add to or take anything from what He gives. It’s done on the cross, as you say end of story.

  10. Anne

    What a wonderful day it was yesterday hearing God’s word so boldly proclaimed. What a wonderful day to be able to bask in the reassuring knowledge that it is DONE. What a wonderful day today will be knowing it is DONE now and forever. Love the way you put it my friend. Your writing is such a blessing and thank you for sharing your heart.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Anne, I sat with his sermon all day. Something I haven’t done in a while. It was truly a blessing to sit with the truth of God’s word and let it wash over me. I hope I did his words justice. He is so anointed.

  11. simplyhelpinghim

    Beautiful! Being good is overrated, and isn’t the answer! Thank you for sharing and for stoppin by my corner 😉 Blessings! simplyhelpinghim.com

  12. kendalprivette

    i thought i had it sort of figured out until i went to church yesterday and found myself thinking that i had to do church right – wear a skirt even though i didn’t want to, shake hands with a smile even though i wanted to be invisible for the morning….

    • joepote01

      “…shake hands with a smile even though i wanted to be invisible for the morning…”

      This is one I sometimes struggle with, Kendal.

      Yes, I want to approach worship with a heart of thankfulness, regardless of circumstances. No, I don’t generally want to air all my emotional garbage in public.

      But what about when I am hurting or grieving? If I paste on a smile and tell everyone I’m doing great, is that acting in faith based on knowing Christ is my anchor in the storm? Or is it just being a hypocrite?

      And, if I struggle with these questions, how much more someone who is new to the church or new to the faith?

      No wonder so many people view the church as a bunch of hypocrites…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Oh, I get this. But I guess what we do must be an extension of our love for Him, not because it will make us righteous. Because no matter how many times we wear a skirt or force ourselves to be in relationship it doesn’t add to the way he already loves us, does it?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      enjoyed stopping by your place too Mary. Good to visit with you today.

  13. joepote01

    Fantastic post, Shelly!

    It’s not about my goodness, but about Christ’s righteousness.

    It’s not about being good, but about being in relationship with Christ.

    Why is it so hard to remember such a simple truth?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Good question Joe. My answer is simple, maybe too simple but we are fallen, sinful people. We need to be reminded.

  14. Beth

    Yes! We can lay aside our perfectionistic pursuits and rest in the fact that Christ has already DONE it all for us. I’m so glad you are trusting in Christ’s sacrifice, Shelly, and then sharing this truth with all of us!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s a good place to live Beth, letting go and living in freedom. I wish I could say I live there every day. I don’t but I’m working on it.

  15. Michele-Lyn (@lifesurrendered)

    Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. I think you’ve just summed up the gospel of grace in this most powerful statement. I will take this with me throughout today…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Words from an anointed pastor, not mine. And they open the veil on perspective don’t they? Nice to visit with you after your brief hiatus.

    • Jillie

      I loved that statement as well. The Christian life summed up beautifully. Now I just need to remember this when I’m feeling unworthy or like I have to make it up to God when I’ve done something I’m ashamed of. (I read your posts as well Michele-Lyn) You ladies are astounding to me. Such wisdom!

  16. Paula

    Lovely post……..you are so brave to re-visit all of your pain. Yet, through your inspirational words, you are connecting with so many. And, I think what you say about “doing good” will resonnate with many. Glad Harrison enjoyed camp.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think it resonates because we all share the same struggles, just lived throught different circumstances. I don’t feel like I am re-visiting pain because He has healed me but I hope that my sharing will kindle understanding and healing in someone who visits here.

  17. Christine

    Visiting from Ann’s place today. Lovely post. My first thirty-one years I tried to be good, to no avail. Thank God he plucked me from the world after that and gave me truth…the truth you write here.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thankful that He never stops pursuing us Christine, no matter how old we are there is room to grow in the soil of redemption.

  18. simplystriving

    Oh, you got me all riled up, Shelly. In a good way : )
    “Because the power of salvation isn’t my faith, it’s in the object of my faith.” YES! and amen.
    And that quote by an anointed pastor. that’s worth holding on to.
    Oh, I could go on and on, but I’d be preaching to the choir. Just know I’d be ugly without Him. I have nothing to offer but what He brings. And when I look in the mirror I can smile and know. I was made for grace.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad it got you all riled up in a good way Nikki. Love your passion for truth and the way you follow after it with determination. Amen girl!

  19. Jillie

    Good Day Shelly…Once again I have enjoyed your words and photos. Thank you so much for sharing some of your story here. You touched my heart and my own memories of growing up in less-than-ideal conditions. When you wrote, “I grew up learning how to live by watching people make bad choices…”, it really struck a chord with me. And yet, I went through a few years of my life making the same bad choices, with some being worse than they had done. I am still reminded regularly of those horrible things by the enemy of my soul…BUT GOD…(Two of my favorite words in all of Scripture!) BUT GOD!!!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It’s why this community is so precious Jillie. We realize that we share pain and joy, struggle and freedom, that His arms of forgiveness and redemption are long enough to fit around us all. Yes – BUT GOD!

  20. eggthoughts

    Oh, I just loved reading the gift about your son & camp!! I love camp so much and especially love hearing when a camper has had an awesome time. It can be such a growing experience! I’ll be spending 3 weeks at my camp in July, being a counselor. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      He said it was his best year so far and he came home a bit taller and so full of joy. So thankful, I just stay back and pray God will use it for His purposes and He is faithful. How wonderful that you are giving your time for three weeks as a counselor. Hope it is full of God moments for you and them.

      • eggthoughts

        Thank you! 🙂 ~Frances

  21. Christina

    It is done. All the striving, all the pretending, all the doing. His grace is sufficient. There is nothing more beautiful than this truth and thank you for painting it so perfectly. Blessings to you, friend.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      This truth is really beautiful isn’t it? Now let’s live it shall we?

  22. kayehaun

    I agree with your pastor…”Keep writing!” Beautiful!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aw, thanks so much. I really appreciate that.

  23. kelly

    Oh… such a profound one! And don’t you love that God uses books poolside to speak to us, unlocking years of belief systems to set us free? It seems so much easier to have a check list or measuring stick until I grasp the absurdity of earning ANYTHING from God! Thank you, once again!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Kelly, its so good to hear from you. I wondered if you saw the post I wrote about our visit. I thought the photo of all us turned out well.

  24. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    I’m sorry for all the hurts in your growing up years, but blessed by how God has turned your ashes into beauty! I see that redeemed beauty in all your words here. (Yes! Do keep writing! 🙂 ) I grew up with solid parents, but we went through many trauma years with a family member lost in a maze of drugs… and I can identify from that standpoint. Sad and difficult years that only the Lord could heal, and has. Also, growing up in a church that does lean towards doing, and now knowing it is done, has made all the difference! Thank you so much for your prayers, Shelly. I want to write more in an email soon to answer that…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      We all struggle don’t we? Its how we respond to hardship that makes all the difference. Look forward to hearing more when you have time.

  25. Joan

    The truth is we could never be good enough to earn salvation. I once struggled with trying to be good (after I was saved) thinking that I needed to measure up. Romans 5:8 is a favorite verse, “While we were yet sinners He died for us.” That’s love!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I still do it and then find myself ridiculous and learn the lesson once again.

  26. Emily Wierenga

    i love the way you write, girl.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Well, that means a lot coming for the girl with the silver pen! Thanks Em.

  27. Christy (@crittyjoy)

    As someone who is struggling with letting the good girl go and just being ME….this post spoke so much to my heart. You have a beautiful way with words. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Christy, it was nice to meet you now that you are back in the blogging world. Thank you for the email today.

  28. Heart and Soul

    I too love your quote about religion and christianity – so very profound!! … thanks for popping by my blog 🙂

  29. kd sullivan

    Yes! and the difference between believer and disciple is that a believer wants God to do something for himself, and the disciple wants to do something God.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Love that and it is so true Kim. I was talking about this with H. I said I have a hard time with thinking I don’t have to do anything and then he reminded me that what we do is out of our deep love for God, not because we think it is going to make us holy. And that is the difference in mentality between a disciple and a belivever.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      thanks for the tweet Eileen, appreciate your generosity.

  30. JD

    I keep thinking that I must strive to be found faithful. I am a slow learner, but after last year, I think I’m learning my limitations. Thanks for your post.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think we are all slow learners, we just think everyone else is faster than we are in the race.

  31. Nacole@sixinthesticks

    oh, good thoughts. i love this: “Christianity is spelled DONE”. and the verse from Rom. 3:10 is wonderful. i needed to read that today–thats one thing i love about reading others’ blogs…it always encourages me toward God. thank you so much for your comment over at my place last week, Shelly, and ive missed you, too! psst…i dont think Joe will see this, but i really like what he had to say about faking it and smiling, shaking hands, giving the general “fine”–yes, no wonder the world thinks what they do.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That Joe is full of honesty isn’t he? Appreciate his thoughts and yours too. So glad to see you Nicole, glad you were encouraged here. That makes me smile.

  32. Theresa@HeavenlyGlimpses

    So simple, yet so difficult sometimes to accept because we are kings and queens of intellectualizing and complicating matters. Love this truth!

  33. Denise

    I enjoyed your thoughts.

  34. Gianna

    Wow! This is perfect! I have a hard time sometimes figuring out where I stand and what I believe to be truth. Not because I don’t believe the truth is Jesus, but because I get so mixed up in the everyday how do I live the truth and show love tug and pull. But it’s like your post states. It’s all about my heart and Jesus knows my heart.
    I love how you put skin around this!

  35. ljbmom

    Shades of my past here, sweet friend. I actually had some heart palpitations reading this :). Sometimes, digging out from under the past takes all that I have. But, thankfully, God uses it all and every day I see how He used those times, those people in my life. Love to you, lady.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You alluded to a bit of that on one of your last posts about gifts, and not getting any as a child. It made me curious. I know what you mean about the digging. I find a lot of resistance to digging, even when I need to. Love to you too Laura, lots of it.

  36. Michelle DeRusha

    Can I ever relate to this, Shelly – I was (am?) always looking to be good, better; trying to earn points, the reward. A fruitless cycle…but yet it persists, even into my adulthood.

    Powerful writing here…but don’t I always say that?!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Aw, thanks Michelle. This girl never tires of hearing those words. I think we all suffer with being good-itis. It why we need each other, to help each other overcome it.

  37. Duane Scott

    This was one of the best things I’ve read this week.

    Thank you.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Duane, that is quite a compliment. Thank you. I can imagine you read a few blogs, so I take that seriously. It’s really nice to meet you this week and congrats again on your new position with Prodigal.

  38. Tanya Marlow

    ‘I grew up a window watcher’ – yes – that’s such a perfect way of describing it. You tell so beautifully the story of grace and being released from having to be good. I love your writing!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think I learned more from the school of watching people than I did in the pursuit of classroom studies. Learning how to live by watching others do it. Thanks for visiting, hope you are feeling well today.

  39. Kris Camealy (@AlwaysAlleluia)


    “And perhaps this is the hardest lesson of all, this undoing the message of doing to be acceptable.”

    Shelly, your writing always speaks so perfectly to my heart. I am learning this slowly, this being, not doing thing. I haven’t mastered it yet, just inching my way through this hard season of refinement. Thank you for this, which confirms the lessons He’s teaching me. And thank you for linkign this up today. I am SO happy you joined in. What a gift you are!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Your words make this heart smile Kris. I just continue to be overwhelmed by the way the Lord brings those of us together in a way that ministers to the deep soul places. This is also something I have to revisit often, a constant remembering of grace and letting go of doing in order to be enough. I suppose we will know true freedom when we stand before Him face to face. It’s something to look forward to.

  40. Alia Joy

    Every day I have to repreach the gospel, letting it soak into my core. Reminding me that good is never enough and grace is all I need. Love this reminder.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Alia. The reminding is also an awareness of how much we need Him in our life isn’t it? If we conquered it all, perhaps we wouldn’t be on our knees quite as often.

  41. Jennifer Johnson Camp

    Oh, I love, love this. Wow. “Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE.” Yes, I have laid this down, painfully, and I lay it down again and again — the lie that I have to earn this LIfe. Your writing, your stories, are powerful and beautiful and filled with truth and hope. So blessed.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      You’re too kind Jennifer, thank you. And really, we probably all share the picking this up and remembering grace all over again. If we didn’t need remembering, we would forget our need for Him too.

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