I can’t help but wonder how many people give up on something right before a really great thing happens. My roommate and I ventured out of Nashville after work one night to pick up the greatest cooking contraption our backyard had ever seen. Propane tank and all, we reasoned that $40 was well worth it and quickly became the proud owners of a rusty little gas grill. We hurried home, grabbed some partially-thawed burger patties from the fridge and (I’m not kidding) within five minutes, I’ve nearly set my face on fire. Needless to say, I gave up on that one, along with the possibility of having an experience worth sharing.
Don’t be fooled though, most nights at the LEAP Pad are way less exciting and way more “I’m exhausted, I’ve already had Cook-Out twice this week and, no matter how hard these kids try to teach me, I still can’t ju-ju on that beat,” followed by some heavy sighs, and a half-hearted attempt to fill the coffee maker for the next morning. “Don’t quit on a bad day,” Chan, a 17-year-PTM-veteran-in-the-making always tells us. “Don’t quit on a bad day.”
The bad days are the first days, for me. I’m not very good at being new or doing new things and for the moments I try to convince myself otherwise, it’s usually an attempt to mask how much I miss not being new. New convictions, new cultures, new insights – it is challenging and uncomfortable, and not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of what it’s like to be new.
Feeling ineffective, those days are hard too. Poverty is an issue far too heavy for me to shoulder, understand, or explain away. Walking a student home after programming, trying our best to dodge puddles of who-knows-what along the way, wishing I never had to let that little hand go or wave goodbye. My limitations so apparent that sometimes I wonder if Jesus decided to stop showing up.
The days I’m face-to-face with of the worst side of myself are my least favorite. My stressed-out self is careless and complacent, it’s ugly. And for someone like me, doing stress “right” means convincing the people around that I’ve got everything under control. I wouldn’t recommend it.
“Don’t quit on a bad day,” he said. “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). Because of the hope, the joy awaiting him, the really great things – he endured the cross. He has the most incredible experience to share in all of history and so do I because on the bad days, he didn’t quit.
Saying “yes” to a LEAP Year at PTM meant not really knowing what those three little words meant in the first place. (Try explaining that one to the people that love you.) A job description and a place to live paired with a fragile willingness to get through the grey stuff was enough to usher in experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
What an honor it is to have learned more about the kindness and compassion of Jesus than I could have ever imagined. I know more about not knowing, and how important it is to unlearn the things I was so sure of. I’ve stared down my fears with just enough faith to keep walking, not knowing where it was that I was headed. I’ve also turned around and walked the other way, holding onto the hope that maybe I would be stronger tomorrow. I’m thankful that decisions aren’t easy, and I’m thankful that neither is figuring out what to do with your life before college, after, or somewhere in-between.
My hope for you is that you’re way more sure of Jesus than you are of what to do next – but if your “next” happens to be in Nashville, I promise I won’t set your face on fire.
PTM provides the opportunity for urban ministry training through its LEAP Year Program where young adults walk alongside students and their families to help PTM students discover and live their God-inspired dreams, develop a love for learning, and build joy-filled friendships that glorify Christ Jesus. For more information and to apply click here