What’s the internship really like for the Intern?

Mary Elizabeth Hanes  |  October 15, 2015

God has been extremely kind to me the last two and half years. He has and continues to draw me further into sanctification and communion with Him. Because He has been kind, I want to be honest. We all have a story, and I have learned that everyone’s story is worth telling. Here’s the story of my time thus far as an RUF intern at Texas Christian University.

To understand what God has done in my heart and life over the last few years, you must first have some context. I am the second of five children and the firstborn in a set of quadruplets. I have an older sister and two sisters and a brother my age. My parents came to know Jesus later in life and my siblings and I were beneficiaries of their zeal and hunger to know God and grow in a knowledge of deeper things. I do not remember a time not knowing who Jesus was; however, I was about eight when I felt the Holy Spirit stirring my affections for Jesus, leading me to recognize my need for a savior. It was freedom from sin, to righteousness.

I’m not quite sure what I would have told you about the next fourteen years of life if you had asked me two years ago. My guess is that I would have lied to you by omission, only telling you about the joys of having kind, earnest and forgiving parents and having siblings who really were and to this day still are my best friends. I would tell you all about their personalities and character and how honored I feel to be my parents’ daughter and my siblings’ sister. I would have told you that it was in these years I grew to love the Scriptures and the study of them. But, it’s not two years ago. It’s today and I am two and a half years into the RUF internship, which has proven to be the most gloriously frightening season of life I have ever experienced.

I never wanted to be an RUF intern, but here I am in my third year. The posture of my heart coming into this job was one of pride. “They need me,” I thought. This arrogance and self-righteousness surged from a place of profound insecurity. When I got to campus my sin began to be exposed.  

TCU is a place where the pressure to be perfect reaches to every corner of the campus. I felt it the moment I arrived. Everyone was beautiful, talented, smart, whimsical, skinny, witty, put together. I was messy and broken. I couldn’t relate to these students and knew they couldn’t relate to me. After being under the pastoral care of my campus minister, Ryan, Jesus began softening my heart toward my sin—my sin of arrogance, insecurity, control, and unbelief.  I thought I had nothing to offer the seemingly perfect students at TCU; however, the truth is, I was in good company. Pretending to be “okay” and wearing the mask of perfection were skills I was all too familiar with. I had spent the last fourteen years wearing the mask.

The mask I wore and if I am honest with you and with myself, still do at times, is the mask of “I’m fine.” Growing up with three sisters, two of whom were my own age, was hard. I remember comparing myself to my sisters for the first time at the age of six and I never really stopped. Instead of marveling at how God had created each of us so uniquely, I compared myself to them and allowed that comparison to steel my joy time and time again. Quickly I adopted the role of the tough, independent child. I settled into my role there and made emotions synonymous with weakness in my mind. Learning to bury my struggles, I mastered the art of hiding behind the mask while manipulating people into thinking I was being honest and vulnerable with them.  

This job left me uncovered. I could not live life in ministry hiding behind the mask. All the theology I knew and everything I trusted to be true in the Scriptures did me no good if I did not believe it. Thankfully, God’s grace meets us where we are but it does not leave us there. God calls us to act, and we get to! As I began to process the parts of my story I had buried so deeply, I also began to take off the mask. It was scary. It was painful. Coming face to face with your depravity hurts. Repentance, although excruciating at times, is a beautiful reminder that God is calling me to come out of hiding, that He is making me new. As He drew me further into sanctification, everything I knew was trickling its way into my heart again and it changed the way I did ministry.

As the gospel continues to become sweeter to me, Jesus becomes more beautiful and believable. Because I know God is at work in my heart, the hearts of my students and on the campus of TCU, I now get the privilege of sitting across from the girl clinging so desperately to the facade of perfection and tell her it cannot be sustained. To the girl struggling with an eating disorder, I get to say, “I know.” I can tell her from experience that no amount of counting calories or hours spent at the gym will ever make us feel truly lovely. To the girl who cannot imagine giving up the grasp of control, I get to speak of the freedom that comes with opening her hand. I get the joy of saying, “come with me” as I walk toward the Cross.

The story I would have written for my life does not look at all like the one the Lord has given me and for that I am abundantly grateful. This job, the RUF internship, has been really hard but incredibly sweet. Through my campus minister, the students I get to work with and friends, God has drawn me into repentance and reminded me afresh of His character, creativity and grace He so beautifully provides us with. He has brought me on this adventure and has given me people who will hold my hand through the dark, prickly and wounded places in life.

As the story continues, may my heart stay fixed on the one constant—Christ, His gospel and his goodness to His people.