Good-girl Kate, Goody-Two-Shoes Gudim. I was a rule-following, rule-enforcing, and prideful example of what a good little Christian girl should look like. I had straight As in school, wore modest clothes, sung on the praise team, and knew all the lyrics by Point of Grace and Rebecca St. James. I had all the right answers to the questions at youth group and knew that God’s righteousness was my own through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead.
And then I went to Bible College. I started noticing a bit of legalism in my classmates in my second year FLBC (because it’s much easier to notice the speck in the eyes of others). Phrases such as “try harder” and “do better” were creeping into conversations. As my frustration with the rule-following, can-do attitude began to deepen, I started to see how legalistic I was myself. I began studying the meaning of grace: a generous, free, and undeserved right standing that I have before God because of His righteousness. I became passionate about the difference between Christ as my example (which He is) and Christ as my substitute—it is His righteousness, not mine, that alone places me before the throne of God as a saint. I wanted to shout this from the rooftops!
During my time at FLBC, the hymn, “I Look Not Back,” became a theme for me. The stanzas include not looking back, forward, round me, or inward, and conclude, “But I look up—into the face of Jesus/For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;/And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness/And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled” (Annie Johnson Flint).
It has been 10 years since God began this work in my heart, and I am confident that He will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6), but I have plenty to learn in the meantime. In those years, I have attended a state college, lived in Uganda for three years, gotten married, and had a daughter. I’ve noticed how easy it is for my judgmental and prideful mindset to surface in each of these seasons of life as I struggle to not look back, forward, round me, or inward. As I seek to daily look up and depend on His righteousness, I am reminded often of my need to extend grace to others—to those without the hope of redemption, as well as to those within the Church who live in the legalism that once defined my life.
I often become frustrated with the black and white legalism that the American Church portrays to the world. I want the world to know the loving, forgiving, holy God who demands holiness, yet accepts Christ as our sacrifice with our repentance. It is there that I’m brought back to my years at Bible College and see my need for grace yet again. “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!” (Julia H. Johnston).
Katelyn Menkhaus [FLBC 2012] lives in Elk River, Minn.