Broken Smile

courtBy Jessi Carver

Why would anyone want to know my story?  I don’t have an impressive testimony—my parents never got divorced, I never struggled with alcohol and drug consumption, I didn’t deal will sexual promiscuity, I never faced racial discrimination…

As I pondered more upon these thoughts and feelings regarding my own story, I might not have some of the ‘cool moments’ or ‘dramatic struggles’ that we often hear shared at various conferences and camps – but I have a story.  

I was raised in a wonderful Iowa home, in church, I knew all the lyrics to most worship songs, and I even knew that “Jesus” was the correct answer to any and every Sunday School question. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior at the age of 6 and continued to grow in my relationship with Him. Years later, I finally started going to Sunday School and youth group because I wanted to – not because my parents made me. It was during this time that I became a “goody goody.”  What I mean by this is that I had this misconception that being a Christian meant being perfect.

In high school I got even more invested in this identity crisis. I played varsity softball, soccer, volleyball, and track. I had solos in show choir, was student body president, had a killer GPA, and even found a little time to share the gospel. Well, at least I thought I was spreading the gospel. But, how relatable is the gospel coming from the mouth of a “goody good” who is known as an “over achiever”?

People always asked me, “Why are you always smiling?” My church approved answer was simple, “I have the joy of the Lord in me.” But was that even an honest response?…Or was I just smiling to cover up my own brokenness, because “good Christians” were supposed to always smile, right? I had a relationship with Jesus, so I should always have reason to smile, right? I wasn’t sure on the inside, but on the outside I kept on smiling and soon enough I was in college.

In college, here at NWC, I lived a life of faith that made sense, what I knew, what I was comfortable with, the identity I lived out for years as a Christian – the “over achiever.”  As usual, I threw myself into my academics, worked hard at soccer practice, got involved in all sorts of activities, and tried to dress cute at least 3 days a week. But before I knew it, I was neck deep in this “goody good” identity of perfectionism once again.

Deep deep down, I wanted something more than this. I knew this identity of striving for perfectionism isn’t and will never be attainable. Thus, anxiety and body image concerns began to surface which compelled me to cope with more perfectionism…which compelled me toward even more coping. Sometimes this cycle spiraled so strong that I didn’t even want to come back to NWC after various breaks because I dreaded the upcoming stress due to the identity I acclaimed.  

I wish I could tell you all about how I had an instantaneous restorative experience and how I no longer deal with these things. But I can’t. The truth is, I am still struggling with these insecurities. I am still trying to break through the chains of my “over-achieving” view of what being a Christian looks like.  

I am an imperfect Christian and I am okay with that. I am beginning to realize that Christ is perfect so I don’t have to be. I have recently seen Him use my imperfections to build relationships with others. Being imperfect makes me human and reminds me that I am the creation, not the creator. In this humility I am overwhelmed by God’s love and mercy. So I don’t have to smile all the time, because I am freely invited to trust in His perfection, his love, and his plans for me. I dare you to do the same.  

Jessi, thank you for sharing!  Our sense of identity truly does determine so much of our day-to-day and even our destiny ahead.  The scriptures remind of us a new identity, one rooted in our trust of God’s promises; “For I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the

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