Dauntless this year was a week I will never forget. And there's a reason I saved it for last. I feel that it has shaped me permanently for the future. Also, to give you a heads up, I'm going to get quite personal here as it tore down some inner walls for me.
Dauntless is a week full of outreach in which our students share who Christ is by serving in our local community. The name stems from us stepping out of our comfort zones to be bold and brave in showing the Love of Jesus. When we aren't working, we do various fun activities at night, followed by phenomenal worship and then, of course, we all sleep overnight at the church.
It's something we've done in answering God's call to be the local church as a student ministry. God has done wonders through it, changing many lives. Some were people in our community, some were our students, others were parents, and others were those not expecting to be changed but experienced change anyways.
I was one of those people this year.
On Monday night we were all headed to one of our fun events. I was the last in line driving a group of about 10 students in one of our church vans. I asked one of our high school seniors to make sure we were going the correct way on the map as we sat at the light. In the process of turning my head to ask him, I let my foot off the brake slightly and crept forward. Creeping...creeping...SMASH! And my heart fell to my heels.
No severe damage by any stretch to the cars. Everyone in both cars were okay. Our students were okay. I was okay physically. But not in any other way.
I was already ticked off with something that happened earlier in the day at myself and this only made matters much worse. The cops came. I received a ticket. But that's not why I was so upset.
The parents of our students trust me. Trust me, above all else, with their safety. And I felt like I had broken that trust. It didn't matter that it was a small wreck. I felt like I'd failed them. Failed our students. And I let it visually affect me in front of our students for the first time. For much of the night, I was boiling with inner rage and despair while showing a long face. I couldn't make eye contact with our students. I allowed the evil one to have a hay-day in my head and heart.
Thankfully, I did cool down later that night as one of our pastors, our parents and our students intervened. Our theme for the week was Brothers & Sisters, meaning that we strived to see others as family and to love like Christ loved us (John 13:34). They represented that so very well to me in that moment. They surrounded both myself and my wife, praying for us intensely. And I was totally honest with how upset and pained at myself I was.
A weight lifted itself as did my spirits. The week ended up pressing on with God working in unpredictable ways. It went better than I'd ever hoped it could (as you can see in the video at the bottom of this post). I felt closer to our student ministry family than I ever had that night. I felt the same way next 2 days. Then our last night together arrived and that bar was significantly raised.
I saw how we grew in those few days when I was weak and honest with our students. And from seeing that amount of growth in just 2 days, I felt God calling me one step further. I decided to come clean with our students about something. Something I'd been hiding from every single person I'd ever known, (my family, my parents, my best friends), everyone, except for my wife.
I felt it finally time to share what I never wished to share. (So if this the first time you're finding this out, I'm sorry. But I find this to be the best way for me to come out with this.)
For the past 3 years at Klein UMC, I've done my best to appear strong. To never show weakness as best as I could in front of our students. To keep a smile and positivity no matter what. I've done my best to deal with this for much of my life since middle school, through high school and college. But the truth is, I've been doing those things to cover up what I've dealt with. Something I've fought for what seems forever.
You read that right.
Feeling like I don't matter. Feeling useless. Feeling like I have no worth. Feeling like any sort of effort will leave me nowhere. Believing I was a failure. Letting those become voices that whisper me into sleep and scream me awake as mornings come. It's more than low-esteem or anything like that. It's something that tries to work its way into every thought that lives in my brain.
It started when I was playing basketball in middle school. Without getting too detailed, I never thought I was good enough. That affected my willingness to reach out in school. And that affected my friendships. Then relationships. Then everything. I never could face challenges. I could never get as close as I hoped to people I cared for or wanted to get to know better. Most of that was and is, within myself, but it never seemed to end in various circumstances in my life. And it seemed to renew itself even more in the form of homesickness as our family and closest friends are exactly 1001 miles away from us in Florida.
Up to now, as a youth minister, I always did my best to leave that outside of the church, or at least fight it off. But everyone finally saw a glimpse of it during this week after the accident for hours. Though it didn't have the last say.
And I believe it still won't. Why? It all comes back to the reason I shared my weakness in the first place.
Because I could no longer lie. Not to myself, or to others I care about or anyone else. So I'm sorry Mom and Dad for never telling you. Sorry to my brother and sister. To my youth pastor, to my basketball coach, to my mentor, to my best friends that I grew up with and have grown with in the past few years, to anyone who I've dealt with I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never told you. I always thought I couldn't or shouldn't. It's not an excuse for anything. It's just the truth.
But that week of Dauntless finally showed me I needed to be real. I need to be real now. I feel that Christ worked in me to share that for one reason.
Regardless of what you go through, regardless how long you go through it, or how much it pummels you with pain, Jesus Christ is greater than all of it. And if you believe that truth, no matter what else is going on within you, He can and will make a way to bring His victory through it. All of it.
God has continued to show me this as He has pulled me through. He is calling me to be more honest. More authentic. To be real. Enough to show the truth of who He is.
I was so busy trying to be so strong for our students, this ministry and anyone I've known, that I've pushed aside real strength which comes from trusting Him. It is only by this truth that I am where I am now.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12: "9But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
I feel that being more open in my weaknesses will only show the power of God even more.
Many of our students believed that same thing the night I shared.
I watched as they all split up into small groups and opened up with one another about their struggles. Many tears rolled. Laughs were shared. Hugs were given as they prayed for one another. God showed Himself through their brokenness. Since that night, He has continued to show Himself through them more than they might realize.
A SUMMER FOR THE AGES
So God used this summer to grow our ministry.
And He definitely used it to grow me as a man and leader.
Dauntless brought me to be honest and real with myself and others. To not simply hide what I'm going through. And to use that to show others who Christ is.
Choir Tour showed me a new way to force what's going on within me, such as my homesickness and depression, to come out of me. To write not just songs, but to write poetically and lyrically. And let that flow as music of light to combat the darkness within (which I'll share even more about next week).
Sifat showed me that even with the struggles of who I am, and what I'm dealing with, God can still use me and all of us to make a real positive change locally AND globally for His people.
So through being honest about my inner struggles (from learned Dauntless), through writing in a musical manner so that it sings to my soul and others (learned from Choir Tour) and through being active in a world that desperately yearns for action (learned from Sifat), I will continue to put my trust into the King of Goodness, Christ Jesus.
My life will be different. My writing will be different. My faith will be different.
My words will change. My heart will be open. My choices will be prayerful.
And as long as God is here, I am ready. Ready to face all of it. Ready to silence the depression that silenced me for far too long.
I'm ready to be Dauntless.
Thank you Lord for this summer.