Editor’s note: Missioner Erin McHugh relates how embracing vulnerability has allowed for deeper relationships with her students.
I have always found myself feeling pressured to be “perfect,” whether it is because people tell me I have a “perfect” body, or that I say the “perfect” things. I have been called a “perfect” little angel because I never do anything wrong. I strongly dislike when people say these things about me because I don’t feel that same way. I don’t want to be seen as “perfect” because I am far from it. I want to show my weaknesses and vulnerability, but I never really know how to because I don’t want to let people down.
Well, while being on mission God has been teaching me to embracing my failures in pretty much every aspect of my life in Guatemala. I have been thrown into many situations that have been outside of my comfort zone and have challenged me on the need to be “perfect.” I have been humbled and shown my vulnerability in ways I never would in the States.
The first lesson has come from learning a new language, which has never come easily to me. Learning Spanish has allowed me to break down my walls of “perfection” pretty quickly. I have had to allow my teacher or the kids correct me whenever I make a mistake. I have to be ok with often saying the wrong thing and getting blank stares or laughs. In the US, I would get frustrated and upset that I couldn’t learn a new language, but now I am just embracing it and enjoying the opportunity to learn and share in laughter with the kids. In showing my struggle with Spanish, I have been able to form deeper relationships with my students, one in which we both show our vulnerabilities as we struggle to learn a new language.
Another lesson has occurred while teaching English to the high school girls. I laughed when I was asked to teach, as I have no teaching experience. I struggle with English myself, so how am I supposed to teach English to these girls? Once again, God is teaching me to embrace the fact that I am by no means a “perfect” teacher, I have no idea how to best run a classroom, make lesson plans, or evaluate my students with homework, tests or projects. . I am usually planning my lessons the night before my class. My struggle in English often comes out when I can’t spell or explain difficult grammar concepts because I don’t understand them myself. This would embarrass me in the States, but I am learning to just laugh about it with my students and show that I even a native English speaker like me struggles too!
I figured working in the kitchen with the girls would be easy for me. I am always cooking and baking at home. But I was wrong—God wanted to teach me humility there, too. I failed at my first attempt to roll out the dough for the cookies and bread the girls make to sell. I failed at making my first homemade tortilla. In those failures, though, I was able to show my weakness and give the girls the chance to teach me a skill they have mastered.
I have been blessed by the power of vulnerability and how it has opened the doors to deeper and more meaningful relationships built around our common struggles and imperfections as human beings. It has allowed me to let go of the need to be “perfect” and embrace my weaknesses through laughter, realizing that is the best way to build trust along others.
Reflection Question: How can you embrace your imperfections and show your vulnerability in your daily life?