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As I walk across the street to the neighbor’s house, a long-ago memory from a different address emerges.

Behind a long length of garden, a single mom and her young son share a small dwelling beside the house my mother and I rented, the house with uneven floors and cockroaches coming out the wall sockets. In the summer, we greet our neighbor more often when she sunbathes slathered in baby oil, in a bikini lying on a towel in the dandelion grass. 

One evening, after returning from dinner, she extends an abrupt invitation to both of us for a visit. When we walk inside her tiny living room, every chair and table is piled with stolen merchandise. Holding each piece of clothing up to her chest with tags dangling from cuffs, she smiles like she won the lottery, assuming we’ll  be happy for her success. But instead, I feel like I want to throw up.

I’m a voyeur to the bad choices of other people often in my childhood. I learn how to live through the school of reverse mentoring but this memory comes with a wrong assumption. The way to earn God’s favor is goodness. 

“Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have to be good to be in relationship with Jesus,” my pastor once said from the pulpit. “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? Perhaps your parents, a teacher or an admired friend.

We can feel good about ourselves in comparison to the lowest common denominator of humanity, guilt-ridden when it’s great men and women of faith. But the measuring stick of our value isn’t goodness, it’s the righteousness of God through Jesus. (Romans 3:10)

Window shopping life, I grew up defining my worth by watching others and missed the fine print hanging from the cuff.  Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. (Romans 3:23-26)

Goodness is a byproduct of desire, not a requirement for intimate relationship.


Join the #LentChallenge discussion about Romans this week on our Facebook page, Redemptions Beauty Book Club.

Writing in community with Jennifer, Holley, Emily and Lyli.