Something happened to me 6 months ago. I couldn’t tell you at the time that it had happened, but a series of events were set into motion that have wrecked and reshaped my heart in so many ways over the past 6 months. I didn’t see it coming, but I’m so thankful it did.
On April 13, 2012, I boarded a plane with a missions team from Cross Point Church headed to Nairobi, Kenya. I went there expecting one thing, and left with much more. On the flight, I read Bob Goff‘s new book “Love Does”, literally finishing it as we taxied to the gate in Nairobi. Reading that book caused something to come alive in me that I don’t know how to explain, but I do know that it kicked open a door in my heart. I was particularly moved by Bob’s comment and challenge that “I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” That stuck with me.
On that trip, I got to know this kid named Peter, who ended up being my roommate during our stay in Nairobi. At 18, Peter was literally half my age but the more I got to know him I quickly realized that in spite of the age gap we had a lot in common. I remember asking him what I ask a lot of people when I first start getting to know them, “what’s your story?” Peter and I ended up talking late into just about every night about his life and mine. By the third night, as he was sharing some particularly difficult parts of his story, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging my heart. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but at that moment I felt the call to invest in his life, being available to, intentional and consistent with him. And I told him. And he thanked me. But neither of us had any way of knowing exactly what that was the beginning of. By the time the trip ended a week later, God had given me such a heart to look out for and invest into him, and Peter had become a little brother to me. Something began to shift.
After returning to Nashville, I spent a lot of time throughout the summer being very intentional and hanging with Peter. We would sit and talk for hours about life, faith, challenges, God, mistakes, relationships, struggles and how all of those things intersected and shaped us. The more we talked, the more I realized that in many ways Peter was where I was at his age… trying to figure out who I was, what my potential was and how to navigate it all, without anyone really helping me. As our relationship continued to evolve, I realized God was positioning and calling me to mentor him. We both knew it, it just took some time, some challenging conversations and working through some obstacles to get there. There were moments when it would have been easy for me to walk away, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me and I remained consistent with him. I’ve now been actively mentoring Peter for a few months now. I love that kid and I’m so proud of him! The growth I’ve seen take place in his life over the past few months has been incredible!
I began to talk with Wes Howard, Cross Point’s Young Adult & College Pastor and one of my best friends, about it all, explaining the shift I was feeling and wrestling with the call to mentor. I told him that when the fall semester kicked off, I wanted to lead a small group of college guys. The time I had been spending with Peter was such a powerful catalyst for me beginning to realize a huge need for grounded, Christ-centered influence and leadership at that stage of life… something I did not get the benefit of having.
While this was unfolding throughout the summer, in late July I got a text message out of the blue from my friend Chris, a 20-year old college junior. Chris explained that God had really been calling it to his attention that if he was going to be the man he knows God is calling him to be, he was desperately in need of a mentor, and asked me if I would be willing to be his mentor. To say that text message was humbling would be a gross understatement. You see, about 4 months prior, after a passing conversation with Chris, I felt the Lord nudge my heart to reach out and spend time getting to know him and investing in his life. At the time I thought to propose such a thing sounded arrogant and presumptuous, so I didn’t. And now, 4 months later, that nudge came back around almost as if it were scripted. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I met then 19-year-old Nick and began to see God do some really cool and strategic things as he and I started spending time together and developing a really unique friendship. In a short time, that dude has become my brother for life in such an undeniable way that only God can do.
Just as this momentum was building, on Thursday, August 16, my grandfather, who was a pastor for over 50 years and had been my pastor for the first 24 years of my life passed away after a long battle with cancer. At his funeral, speaker after speaker got up to share about how he had loved them, mentored them, championed them, challenged them, been their constant friend and poured into them. As they spoke, I began to realize that many of the gifts, traits and dispositions I had were no accident at all. God began to show me that many of the things the speakers were saying about my grandfather were things that were actively at work in my life, and had been for some time. I had seen my grandfather do this, pastoring, loving, mentoring, pouring his life out into those around him for years. As I sat there listening to all this, looking at my grandfather lying in the casket, God began to connect many dots for me… and I was a wreck. Looking at him, I had a moment of spiritual clarity and knew that he had left empty. He spent his entire life being poured out into those around him. I sat there and wept, telling God that’s what I wanted for my life, to leave empty, and that I wanted Him to just pour me out. Somewhere deep inside me, it was as if I felt Him say, “I am.”
My grandfather’s death didn’t just close a chapter of my life, it felt as if it closed a book. As I drove back to Nashville, I knew deep down that while one season of my life was blossoming and beginning, another was coming to an end and the shift I had been feeling was taking shape.
Close to 3 years ago when I first came to Cross Point Church, I joined the then-Young Professionals Community Group, which would later be known as Stretch. I will never forget walking into a room of 60 people on the evening of Sunday, January 17, 2010, not knowing who anyone was, including myself. The proverbial bottom had dropped out of my life, my heart was in a tailspin and I was faced with the seemingly arduous task of figuring it out on my own. Then I met this incredible group of people and began to dive into a community that loved me, encouraged me, supported me, invested in me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I did not come with a hope or intent to lead anything, but to be led. I still remember the shock I felt when Wes first asked me if I’d be interested in leading a small group, thinking to myself, “lead?! You see a leader?! I’m a loser right now!” I may have felt like and seen a loser in myself at the time, but God had other plans. For the past 2 years I have led this amazing community of young adults that we call Stretch. It has not always been easy, but I have loved it immensely. While I would never claim to have led it perfectly, I have tried my best to lead it well, quite often in spite of fear, uncertainly and insecurity. Serving alongside an incredible team of over 25 leaders, I believe God has and continues to do some very unique things in and through that group.
If I’m honest, there was a time when I believed that not only did I need Stretch, but Stretch needed me. I no longer believe either. Though it is very bittersweet, I know my season of leading the Stretch group has come to an end and last night I stepped down from my leadership role there, handing it off to the team of group coaches that I’ve had the pleasure of serving with for quite some time. I am so proud of them and am excited to see them take this group and run with it, discovering God’s purpose with each new step of courage and faith!
Stretch has been a place where God has grown me, developed me and trained me in so many ways for the call he has on my life. As I continue to learn what it means and looks like to embrace that in this season, I have jumped in head-first to walking closely with, leading and pouring my life out into this group of college guys I lead, both on Wednesday nights and throughout the week. The guys in my Cross Point College guys group are incredible and God is doing something powerful and unique there. I’m learning that something powerful happens when people know you are with them and for them, and I want to spend my time investing in these guys to such a degree that when life squeezes them, Jesus comes out. Whenever I get to spend time with them I can’t help but wonder what my life might have looked like had God sent someone to me at that age who was committed to consistently investing in my life. That is not my story and I have no regrets, but I seem to have quite unexpectedly stumbled upon the redemptive nature of what God is doing in my life. Suddenly, many of the things in my life that hurt or didn’t make sense have become platforms and passes where I have been able to connect my experiences to those of these guys and watch God recycle and repurpose what I might have otherwise thrown away.
As this story has played out over the past 6 months, here is perhaps the most crucial piece: none of this has anything to do with me. This all has far less to do with my ability than it does my availability. All throughout the Bible, God had a habit of using not the ones of stature, affluence and experience, but rather the ones who, often through fear, uncertainty and insecurity, simply said “yes.” The bottom line is God has wrecked my heart for these kids and I’ve just chosen to say “yes”. Yes to the shift, yes to the pursuit, yes to the wrecking, yes to not everybody understanding, yes to something other than what I had planned… simply, “yes”.
2 Corinthians 4:7 has become so alive to me. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” We live in a culture where the belief that we actually have something to offer is so pervasive, even in Christian and church circles. The truth is, we are nothing more than clay jars, created to be poured from. We are not the treasure, but we carry it. The power in what we carry is from God, not from us. We easily work ourselves into frenzied states of exhaustion, buying into the lie that people need us and what we bring to the table. Guess what? They don’t. They need Him. On your very best day, apart from Him you are utterly empty, powerless and have nothing to give. But if you say yes and let Him fill you, He will pour you out, then fill you again. But never forget that what pours out of you is not that of yourself, but it is Him.
My life is not about me and your life is not about you. Live a life that points people to Jesus. Find a place to pour Him out.
Just say “yes”.