It's funny, as he was talking about it, I was thinking about the church I grew up in. The pastor there (whom I'll refer to as Pastor B) refused to allow the song "Just As I Am" to be played or sung. If you aren't familiar with the song, it contains the following lyrics:
Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And that thou bidst me come to thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come
Basically, a wonderful picture of God's grace and my helplessness. Pastor B didn't want the song played because he didn't want people to think they could just come to God, say a prayer and keep going on the way they were going. As a child who loved to sing in church, I was told I wasn't allowed to do this song, and my mother tried to explain it to me. The message I received was that the song was wrong and that you couldn't just go to God like you were.
Now, maybe that could be played off as a kid who didn't get it. But a large part of the culture in small-town Alabama, where I grew up, dictated that "being good" was what you did if you were a Christian. Jesus loved all the good little boys and girls, and if you said your prayers, didn't lie and went to church on Sundays, then you would get to go to heaven. So Pastor B's (and my mother's) attitude toward the song was just more confirmation that if I wanted Jesus to love me, I'd better be perfect, or as close as I could be.
I've seen this play out in my life in a number of ways: my tendency as a child to correct people (which I still do now), spending my teenage years basically hiding from my parents and learning to put up a facade of everything being great; going to college and screwing things up royally as far as my grades and classes went, because I finally caved to the pressure of trying to be perfect when it was impossible.
The thing I hate, I suppose, is that I still see the effects of this upbringing on me. I like to pretend that everything's OK. I hold others to standards that I sometimes can't even meet myself. And, as I mentioned, I still love to correct people; heck, I edit for a living.
So where does that leave me? Well, the good news is that I can at least see these things about myself now.
A lot has happened in the past year, and I really hope that most of that has come together to bring me to a place where I can finally have a better understanding of grace, and not just knowing what it is but feeling and living what it is.