I knew that The Fellows Program would be a formative year. However, I did not know that it would be the hardest year of my life.

My family in Memphis hosted a fellow my junior year of college. Through talking with Virginia and hearing about her experience in The Fellows Program, I knew, when applying for the program myself, that the year would be a year of personal growth. However, I could not have known how challenging the program would be until I lived it myself – and could not have known how meaningful that personal growth would be. I never would have imagined this program would leave me feeling so exhausted, so spread thin, and feeling so inadequate… and for this I am grateful.

The Fellows Program is hard! In a recent phone conversation with my dad, I remarked on my exhaustion, feeling spread thin, and my overall ‘tiredness’ that comes with ‘the grind’ of The Fellows Program. But I also remarked on the overwhelming sense of personal growth I have felt as a result of the program. As I talked to my dad, something clicked inside and I was reminded of what meaningful growth has looked like throughout my life. Every season of meaningful personal growth in my life has been marked by tribulation, exhaustion, or frustration...all of which I’ve faced this year. For those reasons alone, I could say that The Fellows Program has been formative to me. But there have been so many more.  So what are those other reasons?

First and foremost, The Fellows Program has lead to a level of self awareness that has been foreign to me up until now. Throughout the year we’ve taken personal assessments like the Enneagram, EQI (emotional intelligence), M Core, (core motivations), and Highlands Ability Battery (natural abilities). Not only have these tests served to affirm why and how I feel the things I feel or why I’m passionate about certain things, but they’ve affirmed how I have been designed by The Father and made me exponentially more discerning of the plans He has for me, as well as, the type of man He has called me to be. And for this I am grateful.

Secondly, and more painfully, The Fellows Program has made me less egocentric. I’ve been forced to move outside of myself, my desire for personal comfort, and my selfish and prideful desire to avoid conflict, and into areas of sacrificial service. These places have led to exhaustion and frustration. But also to places of healing, conviction, and ironically rejuvenation. I’ve learned to appreciate a ‘healthy uncomfortability.’ While it is not always fun, and is sometimes exhausting, it has revealed to me my own sin, forced me to be more vulnerable, and has taught me more about myself – specifically when and how I lose my peace, how I numb to avoid/alleviate pain, and how I fail to be a good friend, brother, son, host-son, employee, and most importantly follower of Jesus. This awareness through exhaustion, coupled with immeasurable, grace has formed me into a faster repenter, and with sweeter repentance has come a sweeter knowledge of Christ’s love for me. And for this I am grateful.

Most notably, I’ve been formed by the Fellows Program in my understanding of God’s character. The sweetest of friends, most caring of host families, and wisest of teachers and mentors have all reflected bits and pieces of The Lord’s character to me this year. Though I’ve seen many characteristics of Christ in my fellows community, one pattern that stands out is that Christ is a redeemer. And for this I am grateful.

Through my friends and my own exhaustion and pain this year, I’ve been able to see more clearly that The Lord is in the business of restoring lives. I’m thankful that every procedure the Lord works on me is a surgical measure to make me more and more alive in and attuned to His love. Sure, sometimes the surgery hurts, but I am thankful that every wound I feel is a wound that Jesus understands. That every wound I feel is not a torturing wound of prolonged death, but of patient restoration. That Jesus has taken the death wounds so that I can be the recipient of life-saving surgery. How much trouble I would be in if The Lord’s goal was to make me comfortable. Thankfully His aim is to fix my heart.

For the Fellows Program, my not so new friends, and for how the Lord has used exhaustion as a means of grace, I am grateful. So grateful. It is well.  

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul.