During our opening retreat, the fellows decided to take a walk through a creek to find a mysterious lake (total myth, doesn’t exist). My trusty, dusty, and somewhat musty Chacos carried me through the shallow water. We hit a considerably treacherous patch (read: one inch drop off, not treacherous at all) and I turned around to say something to the girls behind me. As I turned, I lost my footing. I fell to my knees, which would have been fine except rocks are sharp and my immediate reaction was to get off my knees, so I sat down…in the water. 24 hours after meeting these incredible people that I was admittedly already dreaming up how we’d spend our lives together, my perfectly manicured image tumbled into the water. Try as I might, my soaked shorts would not let me hide my failure from my new friends.
As I reflect on my time here, these past two months have been filled with God taking a sledgehammer to my attempts at portraying myself as a perfect, put-together person. He’s pushed me into the creek hundreds of times. I have seen God humble me in many ways, from accidentally sending a picture of Theresa’s surprise birthday present to our Fellows GroupMe, which includes Theresa, to setting off the alarm at my host family’s house multiple times (the cops only came once so PRAISE THE LORD). After these events, my gut reaction is to retreat and contemplate how to build my image back up. These failures are funny, but in the moment I find myself red-faced and desperate to cling to my successes, my good deeds, my image.
I desire for people to see me as the chill girl who can easily juggle teaching, small group leading, relationships, church, seminary class, and still find time to sip a cappuccino on the porch of Frothy Monkey while contemplating the creation story. I’d rather not let anyone in on my mini-mistakes, let alone the dark parts of my life. But, as hard as I try, everyone here has witnessed me fail hard and fail often. Hiding is just too exhausting. This verse really emphasizes what I’ve been learning about myself, my desire to perform, and the emptiness of a life without hope in God; “Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” -Ecclesiastes 2:11.
When our hope is in vanity, which bases itself off of how others perceive our worth and value, we are striving for nothing. When our hope is in God we can be secure in our worth and value as a redeemed son or daughter of the King of Kings. Why do we try so hard to hide parts of ourselves? We were created to live in community: to struggle, to thrive, to live together. To “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). What would life be like if this was our reality? If instead of distorting our images, instead of spending hours perfecting our performances, instead of hiding, we came to truly understand each person, ourselves included, as the people of God we were uniquely created to be. I think we would do a lot less performing, a lot more praising, and live more vulnerably with the people around us. Together, as fellows, we are working towards an authentic community shaped by this perspective. It’s been challenging, uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing. But, it’s also been beautiful and redemptive, wet clothes and all.