Shattered Illusions

By Kirsten Kohlstedt, Judson University Team 2014
Spa and Picture Day with the Girls on Mother's Day
Spa and Picture Day with the Girls on Mother’s Day
So anybody that even knows me a little probably knows that I’m a slight perfectionist. And by slight, I mean I’m pretty sure I was striving for perfection since the day I was born. This habit of striving for perfection permeates every aspect of my life. This is an impossible standard, though. Because of this reality, I have learned to “fake it till I make it.” I think I do this to prove to both others and myself that I am indeed “perfect.” Because if I can appear to be so, it’s close enough, right?

Even in writing this post, my perfectionistic tendencies are flaring. I’ve re-written this small chunk already like, 4 times. Obnoxious, right? In an act to fight against this tendency, I am just going to write and see where it gets me, so I apologize ahead of time and hope you can somewhat follow.I’ve been on 4 mission trips in the past 3 years and they’ve all been amazing, yet unique experiences. Especially for my trips to the DR, I can tell you a very specific lesson that the Lord taught me through each trip. As I’ve been reflecting on my time in Peru, I have been trying to pinpoint an exact lesson that I can take away (I told you, the perfectionism is always at work). Though I’ve been able to talk for hours about my experiences there and pull out small things that I learned from these, nothing seemed to stand out as thee lesson. That is until tonight when I was reading A Praying Life by Paul Miller, not really thinking about my trip at all, actually. As I was reading, these simple words seemed to reach out and slap me across the face: “We received Jesus because we were weak, and that’s how we follow him.” He continued to reference 2 Corinthians 12:9, which says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

And that is when it hit me. I had been reflecting upon this exact verse all week while in Peru. I even tied it into the devotional I led for the team. The Lord opened my eyes so I could view it in a whole new light, though.When I first came to Christ, I did recognize my brokenness, as it led to my realization for my deep need of a Savior. My need for perfection started to sneak in as my faith grew though, and was beginning to taint this recognition of brokenness.

When I think of my time in Peru, I think of an immense amount of brokenness. Brokenness that is so deep and dark, I cannot begin to comprehend it. But I also think of an outpouring of joy. Joy seen within very, very broken girls. Girls that have every excuse to be angry and bitter at the world, but choose to be joyful instead. I think the Lord blessed me with this experience for a lot of reasons, but one of them being to remind me of my own brokenness. Though I have been fortunate enough to not have suffered as many others have, I am a very broken individual. I am selfish. And prideful. And just plain sinful. No matter how hard I try to mask this brokenness with an illusion of perfection, there’s no escaping the reality of this world’s state of being, myself included. But like these girls that refuse to be defined by their past, I too am not defined by my brokenness. We are all defined by Christ himself. I am His and that is what defines me.

While on this trip, two girls made comments about how they had previously thought me to be, and I quote, “so perfect.” I would have never denied the falseness of this statement, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love hearing that. It was evidence that my ploy had worked. I had somehow portrayed myself in a way that exemplified my ultimate goal. From the surface, I succeeded then, right? I mean, it was what I’ve been aiming for. But when I break past that superficial lens I was viewing myself from, there is so much wrong with this. This illusion builds up such barriers between people. That seemingly “perfect” person is so far from approachable. They “have it all together,” so they couldn’t possibly understand. I desperately desired this aura of perfection while simultaneously hoping to maintain this sense of approachability.

This is not possible, though. My imperfections are numerous and I no longer want to hide them. It’s time to shatter this illusion for both myself and others. Once I recognize that it’s okay for others to see me as imperfect, I may start to accept it for myself as well. This realization gives 2 Corinthians 12:9 a whole new meaning then. It’s okay to be imperfect and broken because God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is seen most clearly through my weaknesses.

Not only am I freed up from the stress of reaching an impossible goal, but God’s glory is that much greater because of my complete brokenness. One of the girls on my team said something about how she loves brokenness and thinks it’s a beautiful thing. I remember thinking that sounded really nice, but can’t say I feel the same. Now I understand, though. When we are totally honest, we are so incredibly broken. I can no longer deny that. But like the Peruvians I met, I choose to live joyfully amidst my brokenness. Unfortunately though, this will be a lifelong battle for me. I’m sure of that. But I know I can rest in the sufficient grace of Christ and can consequently embrace my imperfections instead of masking them. I can even boast of them as Paul says. And that, my friend, is a beautiful lesson.

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