Westmont Magazine Learning to Live with Imperfection
When Kristin Rushforth Ritzau ’04 leads retreats for women she includes an art project as an exercise. “A lot of people crumple up and throw away their first efforts,” she says. “Most of them think they can’t be creative and meet their own standards — or the culture’s. This is especially true for perfectionists, who need to make everything perfect, or they won’t do it.”
Kristin knows about the pitfalls of perfectionism; she is a recovering perfectionist herself. To help other women struggling with this burden, she has written a book, “A Beautiful Mess: A Perfectionist’s Journey Through Self-Care” (www.abeautifulmess.org). Rather than dictating lists of things to do, she shares her experiences. “I have learned to tell the story God has given me,” she says. “I want to do ministry out of being and not doing.
“For Christians who are perfectionists, faith can become works-based and task-oriented,” she says. “They think if they do a daily devotion and try harder, God will love them and bless them more. They are afraid of judgment and regard God as Santa Claus; they want to be on the ‘nice’ list. But they are really trying to fulfill society’s expectations, not please God.
“I want my book and work to create a safe place where women can find their true selves and be the best version of themselves for God. They can then operate out of this place and serve others. Our biggest mandate as Christians is to love our neighbors as ourselves, not focus on what they think of us.”
Kristin’s day job for the past five years is working at Azusa Pacific University in the Office of Ministry and Service. “I love interacting with students,” she says. “Their passion and energy for changing the world inspires me.”
Working with the 20- and 30-something-year-old women who attend Kristin’s retreats, workshops and talks is different. “Life changes after you put on a cap and gown and walk across the stage,” she says. “When experiences don’t match expectations, it’s difficult. Christian pop culture can be superficial when we’re not honest about who we are and how we’re struggling.”
A communication studies major, Kristin learned to think critically and analyze the messages society sends women. “I loved Westmont,” she says. “I came from a fundamentalist background, and it was a huge character-building experience for me and a safe place to ask questions. I remember my first Bible class when Professor Fisk said we were reading someone else’s mail and talked about the culture of New Testament. It made me thirsty for more. Westmont made me a life long learner.” She earned a master’s degree in Christian leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and is completing a certificate in spiritual direction at the Leadership Institute in Orange County.
Kristin and her husband, Nate ’04, are making an effort to simplify their lives. They feel called to be involved in their neighborhood in Monrovia, Calif., so they own only one car and travel by foot as much as possible. Their church, Mountainside Communion, is four blocks away, and Nate bikes to his job as a program administrator at World Vision International.
Like other members of Mountainside, they grow vegetables, raise chickens and exchange produce. “Going to church with our neighbors helps us transfer theology into our home,” Kristin says. “The way we eat, interact and work are related to our faith. Being a Christian bleeds into everything we do.”