Don’t Follow Me.
It’s been a crazy few months for me, serving as a Traveling Intern with TeenPact, and getting to see the nation as part of the experience. I visited seventeen states, met hundreds of people and traveled thousands of miles. Numerous people have asked me what the best part of my season was. There’s so many possible answers to that question, it’s hard to even know where to begin. The awesome conversations in Texas, the students praying for police officers in Michigan, the revival evening session in Nebraska, the Waffle House run in North Carolina, the one on one with a student in Pennsylvania. There are so many incredible moments I can think of, and I frankly haven’t entirely processed them entirely.
Being in the spotlight is a hard place to be, and it’s easy to look at someone and say “Wow, why can’t I be as good/cool/spiritual as them?” when all you see is the stage facade. I know what it’s like; I’ve been there. I had a load of people whom I had the opportunity to lead and who looked to me on decisions of integrity and leadership. However, I remember the intern guy(s) on my 2013 and 2014 state classes. They were an incredible inspiration to me. When someone asks me what TeenPact has given me there’s a long list of things I could say: A real relationship in Christ. A platform for leadership and speaking skills. An incredible network of friends. The opportunity to see the United States. The chance to grow. But the thing I’ve gained the most is role models. When I think of TeenPact I think of the incredible people who’ve come before me.
Yet, I’ve now been there, and done that. And I’ve talked to those interns whom I look up to. And they’ll be the first to tell you–they’re not perfect. Let me tell you–I’m not perfect. I’m an incredibly awful sinner in desperate need for the love of Jesus. I’d tell you in a heartbeat, don’t follow me. Don’t emulate me. Don’t idolize me. Don’t look to me as an example. Because, like you, I’m still working to figure out life and how to live in the culture and not be part of it. I’m still not sure what a great relationship with the Lord looks like. Now that’s not to say the Lord doesn’t use me, or other interns, or you. But let me say this to you; we’re not perfect.
One of my favorite moments from the whole season came during the week before National Convention this year during a van drive after a hard day’s work. The four Program Directors had squeezed onto the back bench of a 15-passenger van, and we were on our way back to our host homes after an evening of relaxing. These were four men whom I respected more than almost any others. They had spent two semesters of the past two years leading staff teams, students, and classes. But what were they leading to? They had led it all to Jesus. These guys were the heroes of the faith to me. That evening, we started talking about our struggles in life and the season. We talked about a lot of relatable moments–about the moments on classes when we wanted to quit, the moments where we had to cry out to Jesus, the times we had to call a friend and just weep over the phone. We talked about the monotony of being at home after a TeenPact class, the struggles and issues that came with it, our successes and our failures…
Something clicked for me in those moments of honesty and humility: I realized they’re not heroes of the faith, by the definition of perfection. None of us are. Staffers, interns, and yes, even the Program Directors. We all have our moments of greatness and our moments of weakness. We have the moments where we surrender everything to the Lord and moments where we stand in the way. But we’re all walking this road together. It hit me that these four guys had experienced the exact same things as myself, and they had relied on Jesus in moments like those. You don’t have to be perfect to serve our Savior. You just need Him.
On the outside, it looks like I love investing in others, but it’s really God in me who loves making such an investment. And that love that I share with my fellow interns and PDs to keep doing the same thing day after day, class after class, month after month? That’s Jesus. I can say for sure it isn’t me. Here’s the thing: we’re not perfect. Far from it. However, we still love others because he loved us, we imperfectly surrender ourselves, and now Jesus loves through us. You can have the same love, the same passion for others. But it doesn’t come from emulating an intern or a program director or even a pastor. It comes from emulating one man, and one man only. Jesus Christ.
The next time you run into a TeenPact intern, don’t idolize them by putting them on a pedestal. Don’t think of them as a perfect hero of the faith. Think of them as someone who is also pursuing Jesus. Who is also on the same race you’re on. Someone who stumbles and falls. Someone who runs and succeeds. Someone who the Lord is using to pour into others, in the same way he could use you. We’d love to get to know you as friends. As brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe even as mentors, helping you walk through life as people who may have been there before. We love because he first loved us. And you too can love, because he first loved you.