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March 19, 2012

What Do You Mean I’m Not Good?

Figuring out the mystery of how we can exhibit goodness when the apostle Paul tells us no one can

One of the most fascinating mysteries of the Christian faith, and one I’ve long pondered, is how to achieve that illusive virtue, goodness, when we’re actually told in Scripture that it’s unachievable. On the one hand, goodness is a choice fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the evidence of Papa God’s dynamic work in our lives. But the conundrum is presented in Romans 3:12: “No one does good, not a single one.”

Really? Not even one? Then how are we, as Christ-following women, supposed to harvest goodness as a ripened spiritual fruit in our lives?

A few years ago, through an unexpected encounter, I stumbled across a clue to solving this mystery.

It all started the day after my ski accident-induced knee surgery when I awoke to local newspaper headlines heralding, “Monkees Concert Tonight.” As a young teen I’d been a huge Monkees fan.

“Wouldn’t it be awesome to see them again after all these years?” I wondered aloud. But then I stared glumly at the ugly metal brace engulfing the bandages swathing my aching left leg.

My husband, Chuck, shook his head. “You’re not allowed to put any weight on that leg for six weeks. There’s no way you can go.”

I burst into tears. A grown woman weeping over a Monkees’ concert, of all things. Must have been the Oxycodone.

Whatever the source, the tears moved my dearly beloved to action. He first got on the phone to the venue to see if there were any handicapped seats left; after purchasing the last one, he located a rental wheelchair and took off in our van to pick it up. By 7 P.M. I was happily encamped in the handicapped row abutting the stage, my braced leg sticking straight out in front of me on the elevated wheelchair leg like a battering ram.

I smiled at the young woman with spina bifida in the wheelchair to my left, and then to the 30something fellow on my right whose wheelchair was wedged tightly beside mine. He was nonverbal, except for a variety of guttural “Uh, uh” noises, but seemed to understand what was said to him. As he smiled back, a little saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth. His arms were folded tightly across his chest, wrists bent and hands fisted. A tag on his wheelchair read “Property of Tommy.”

Gulp. Here I was, a fraud—pretending to be disabled for a brief time. These brave souls were the real deal, facing unimaginable struggles every single day. I felt humbled. And for some reason, extraordinarily energized.

My kids say I can talk to a brick wall (I don’t know about that, but conversing with them is sometimes very brick-wall-like), so I had no trouble striking up a conversation with Tommy, who made up for chattiness with enthusiasm. He nodded and grunted as I told him all about my girlhood crushes on Peter Tork and Davy Jones and the posters adorning my pink bedroom walls. His laugh was deep and heartfelt, and made his whole body bounce. We hit it off just swell.

Through great songs like “I’m a Believer” and “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone,” Tommy and I rocked out together, sharing whispers, elbow pokes, grunts, and giggles like giddy kids. And then suddenly the house lights went down and glowing cell phones went up as Davy launched into my all-time favorite, “Daydream Believer.”

All over the auditorium, hands raised and swayed back and forth as we sang along at the top of our lungs about the meaning of life to a daydream believer and a homecoming que-e-e-en.

It was a magical moment, and I wasn’t about to let Tommy miss it. I reached over and grabbed his hand, wrestled it as high as I could (which wasn’t easy with his contracted arms), and kind of heaved both of us side-to-side to keep pace with the swaying crowd.

Tommy howled with glee, his entire body bouncing with laughter as drool flew everywhere. By the end of the song, my entire arm was dripping wet, but I didn’t care—we were having fun!

After the concert, a white-haired couple appeared from behind us. It was a good thing, too, because I didn’t know how I was going to extricate my hand from Tommy’s; he’d had a death grip on my blood-starved fingers during the last three songs. The woman—Tommy’s mother—had tears in her eyes.

“Tommy doesn’t get out much,” she said, smiling at her boy, who kept his eyes glued to my face as if he were memorizing my features. “Most people are afraid to touch him, but you’re gracious enough to treat him like anyone else. I’ve never seen him so happy. He’s always been a daydream believer and now you’re his homecoming queen. Thank you for giving him the best night of his life.”

The best night of his life? I was stunned.

For weeks afterward I thought about what she’d said. I hadn’t done anything good on my own, nothing gracious at all. Yet the Lord used the unlikely combination of a skiing accident, a generous husband, a bubblegum concert, and a fraudulent handicapped gal to pour out his love on a special young man.

Maybe that’s what goodness is: nothing from within ourselves, but everything from God’s orchestration. Perhaps goodness isn’t something we can manufacture by our own power, but only channel from our heavenly Father. “There is only One who is good,” Jesus reminds us in Matthew 19:17.
’ve never been a beauty queen of any kind, but I have to tell you I’m moved beyond words to be Tommy’s homecoming queen. It’s a title I’ll wear with honor until the day I go to live in my forever home with my Homecoming King.

I believe goodness is the cantaloupe in the Spirit’s fruit basket—sweet and juicy and bursting with the unique flavor of its Creator. God’s flavor, his essence, is goodness. And the only way we can exude goodness in our lives is if he is dwelling within us.

Debora M. Coty is an inspirational speaker, humorist, and award-winning author of a dozen books, including Too Blessed to be Stressed. Her most recent book, More Beauty, Less Beast, urges women to conquer guilt, reinstitute hope, and transform their inner ogre.

WIN! To celebrate her book's release, Debora is hosting the Transform your Inner Ogre Giveaway and Facebook Party {3/22} She’s giving away a $150 Visa Cash card, a $100 beauty product gift pack, and much more! Enter to win today and RSVP for Debora’s encouraging live event! www.DeboraCoty.com. This blog post was adapted from More Beauty, Less Beast: Transforming Your Inner Ogre. Copyright ©2012 by Debora M. Coty. Used by permission of Barbour Books.

Related Tags: goodness, grace, Holy Spirit, love, sin


How friendly and kind of you to share a touch with a handicapped person you didn't even know. You gave him a lot of happiness

Amazing story. I could just feel Tommy's happiness and excitement. God takes to heart those special times when you reach out to "the least of these".

What a great story! Encourages me to be watching for the Tommy's in my life. Maybe I can be a Homecoming Queen, too! I am glad you were able to see the Monkee's before they lost Davey. I hope he was a "Believer" for real!

I do agree with you that we cannot give what we do not got (sic). Goodness like love is of God (as you said His Being) and He is our great source. So while nothing in me is good, He is good and I pass on His goodness.

Great inspirational article. Thanks!

Now you've gone and made me cry. Thank you for sharing God's love with Tommy. What an inspiration! It is when we are not thinking about ourselves that God uses us to bless 'the least of these' among us.

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