by Alyson Rockhold
When I first started sending newsletters to my supporters, I envisioned sharing messages of happiness and hope – the kinds of topics that would let me present a polished, pretty version of my life.
Like a social media star tilting the camera to capture the perfect pose while blocking out the heap of dirty clothes in the background, I had hoped to gloss over the messy parts of my life. Part of it was a heightened concern that I present my neighbors and host country in a positive light, but most of it was just my stubborn pride.
But God had other plans. He didn’t want me to be fake with my supporters any more than He wanted me to be fake with Him. Every time I sat down to write, words like “lonely,” “sad,” and “uncertain” kept coming out. I would start writing about teaching English and end up sharing how stupid I felt when I mixed up one letter of a Swahili word and told an old man that I was returning his underwear instead of his bottle (chupi vs. chupa).
Then I read Exodus 20:25 where God tells the Israelites, “If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it.” What a revelation: God wants His altar built with jagged edges and uneven surfaces. He doesn’t want imperfections glazed over: He wants them on display!
Before I could show my imperfections to my supporters, I needed to lay them before the Lord. So I brought God my sorrow and anger, without sanding off my raw edges or covering over my rough emotions. I stopped trying to pretend that I had all the answers or that my faith negated my fury. I leaned into the belief that God accepts and loves us just as we are.
Knowing that God loved and accepted me helped me feel more comfortable being real with my supporters. Of course, people are not as loving and accepting as God, but I realized that’s no reason to hide my true self from them. When I was real with other people, it gave them the courage to be real right back to me. I learned that it takes courage to be vulnerable. And it also gives others courage when we’re vulnerable with them.
I had people tell me that they felt stupid sharing their “first world problems” with me. It broke my heart that they were scared that I would judge them. But somehow sharing my weaknesses and imperfections gave them permission to share theirs with me.
When we bring our messy, imperfect lives before the Lord, He declares, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). What amazing news: in Christ, our weaknesses are celebrated and embraced as conduits of God’s power!
And the benefits of being real about the messy parts of our lives don’t end there. As Jacqui Jackson writes, “When we give up the facade and the filters, and the perfectly scripted posts, we welcome back intimacy with our mate, with our family, with ourselves, and with our Maker.”
So I will join with Paul in declaring that “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b). And I’ll include the hard, messy parts of missions in my newsletters while also being careful that the stories I do share are mine to tell.
Alyson Rockhold has served as a medical missionary in Haiti, Tanzania, and Zambia. She recently published a 7-day devotional about learning to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). You can access it for free by clicking here.