good girls

Linking up with Sarah Bessey for International Women’s Day, honoring Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints. This woman is long overdue for a thank-you from me. to Kiki.

I think before we were kindred spirits, Kiki, we shared the instant affinity of being Good Girls. In high school I was a people-pleaser, a way-over-achiever, and fearful of authority, and you, the Other Volunteer Youth Pastor (as in, youth pastor’s wife), were honest enough to say you were recovering from these things yourself. I’d spent my earliest years in an environment that glorified the dramatic conversion story to the point that I wondered if there was any salvation at all for the boring among us; and then I’d joined a youth group whose most popular kids talked about Jesus the least. But even though you’d done all the “right” things in life, you weren’t boring or stuck up or unpopular. I knew I needed to find out what you had. We shared the most insufferable, unglamorous sin of all – that of pride in our rule-following prowess – but you’d lived with it longer than I had and at some point along the way I did find out what you had. You had grace. You helped me understand the spirit, not the letter of the law; you helped me begin to get beyond good.

it's me at sixteen (hint: don't try to spot the differences, there are none) and Kiki at some other age!

it’s me at sixteen (hint: don’t try to spot the differences, there are none) and Kiki at some other age

The story about how you’ve never kissed anyone but your husband assured me that you were beyond appropriately chaste in my unwritten rulebook. But you also wore pretty things that made you comfortable and in the process broke most of the modesty rules I’d collected for myself. You dancers who spend half your lives in leotards training your bodies to perform perfectly – you can always be recognized by a certain grace and confidence in your own skin. You dress and act in a way that invites other people to admire your beauty, but not to consume your sexuality. I learned from you that modesty is about respect for yourself and others, not about lines and hiding and taking on the guilt of other people’s faults. You were not in baggy boring jeans like me, nor in some other youth group girls’ skirts and demeanors that went beyond “it’s really hot here in Georgia” and far into “please pay attention to me any boy!”. Your confidence and beauty did more to influence our thoughts about this touchy evangelical subject than any guilt-inducing modesty talk.

You’ve always been clear that you deeply respect and care for your parents, spiritual leaders, and teachers, but you also have a degree in philosophy and a mind of your own. I don’t know if you’d call yourself a “feminist”, but I appreciated that your opinions on women in ministry didn’t quite fit with the denomination’s. In our hours-long talks about psychology and sociology, the Bible, and our experiences as Good Girls, you taught me that being intelligent is not about being right; and that being faithful is not about being unthinking. You bring a humility and a real desire for the truth that I really miss in a lot of my academic discussions today.

You and Trey always cared for each other like no couple I’ve ever known so well – I never heard either of you speak badly about the other in any conversation, public or private.

You built each other up, held hands and went on dates like the perfect couple in every marriage book ever, and it was obvious that you saw each other as a miraculous gift. When you needed to get away, you went away. But when you were with youth group kids, you were with us. My safe place in high school was lingering late at Starbucks with one or both of you and sometimes another friend or two. You were never unwilling to share each other or your life together with us. Rather, you treated us as brothers and sisters, always welcome.

Kiki, you and Trey taught me that being in love does not mean the world should fade away like it does for people in romantic comedies; that faithfulness and devotion to a partner do not mean excluding others from all intimacy (emotional, spiritual, an appreciative hug). The example of your marriage, precisely because it was so clearly a gift, exposed the church’s idolatry of marriage in light of the deep friendships you formed beyond it. Much of your ministry so clearly grew out of your marriage – and you let your marriage grow through and around and out of your ministry.

As these things tend to go we haven’t kept up very much like I always thought we would. But now I’m farther from high school and closer to the age at which you entered my life, and you should know this. I’m quite sure I did some high-school idolizing (this cool 20-something person is treating me like an adult. She must be flawless!), but I truly hope, when I am with younger men and women, I manage to exemplify just some of the grace and humility you show. You taught me there is love beyond the rules, life beyond approval and grace even for the “perfect”. It is in part because of you I have had the courage to be so far from it. It is in part because of you that good is not what I do but who I am; that I long to be made new in the image of Christ, not in the image of a rule-abiding idol; because my identity is no longer “keeper of the law” but Forgiven, Sought After, Daughter of God. My sister, may you be ever strengthened in that identity you helped teach me to claim – a woman of valor.

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1 Comment

  1. What a beautiful tribute! Thank you for sharing Kiki with us.


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