Drawn Back to Jesus: Why I Applied For the Internship
Noah Rinehart | September 02, 2019
There are a hundred and one reasons that people apply to be RUF interns. Some have discerned a call to ministry in college. Others reach their senior year and realize they have no idea what career path they want to pursue, but know that they loved RUF. Still others want a break from academics before they go on to grad school, a break in which they can serve the Church and grow in their faith. For many of us, several of these factors were at play. But if there is one singular reason that many of us point to when you ask us why we applied for the internship, it’s this: Jesus used an RUF Intern to bring us to Himself while we were in college. Or, in my case, back to Himself.
I was raised in a Christian home. My parents have been believers all their lives, and raised my brothers and me to view Scripture as our authority and to make our faith personal. When I was eight, I became a Christian and was baptized. I spent the next decade doing the things good Christian kids do. I was particularly good at rule-following, which led to an inflated sense of my own righteousness. I even won a Christian character award at my school.
But in reality, I was like the “whitewashed tombs” that Jesus warns against in Matthew 23: beautiful on the outside, but full of dead bones and uncleanness on the inside.
Late in elementary school, I began to realize that I am gay/same-sex attracted. I was terrified and confused. I knew being gay was a sin, and gay people chose to be that way. But I hadn’t chosen anything. For the first time, there was a rule I didn’t know how to follow. The shame of sexual temptation and sin that most teenagers face was compounded. I wasn’t just struggling with lust, I was lusting after other guys. Absolutely no one in my tiny Christian world could know.
I began to question things. I knew it wasn’t true that I had chosen my attractions, so maybe the other things I had been taught about homosexuality weren’t true either. The world was changing quickly around me and I welcomed it. By the time I was 15, I came out to my parents and argued adamantly that I could have a boyfriend and follow Jesus faithfully at the same time. By the time I was 17, I came out completely, boldy decrying on Facebook Christians who believed in the biblical view of marriage as backwards and bigoted. All the while, my relationship with Jesus was almost nonexistent. I covered my deep insecurity with feigned confidence. With this attitude, I started college, professing Christianity but more eager to find a boyfriend than follow Jesus.
That’s when God put me in RUF.
A new friend I made during orientation was looking for a ministry to get involved with. In what can only be explained by the leading of the Holy Spirit, I went with her to RUF. I felt welcomed, and realized that I could make easy friends with these people who spoke the language of my childhood. I liked all these hymns that we sang, strange as they were to me at first. I kept going. Eventually, Weston, an intern in his third year, asked me to get lunch with him.
I was highly suspicious of Weston. The first time he asked me to get lunch, I thought he was going to confront me about being gay and kick me out of RUF. Even when I realized that wasn’t true, I was very skeptical. He asked me about my friends, my family, freshman year, but I made sure, at first, to keep it surface level. Other students in RUF were one thing, but I didn’t trust ministry people. In my mind, they were all anti-gay, and not to be trusted with this part of my story.
But Weston kept pursuing a deeper relationship with me. I could count on his texts like clockwork every two weeks: “Hey Noah, wanna get lunch sometime this week?” I came to look forward to our lunches, and slowly but surely, the wall I’d put up between me and Weston started coming down. By the second semester of my freshman year, I’d even say we were friends. But even then, I never talked to Weston about homosexuality.
I couldn’t avoid the conversation forever. After attending the sexuality seminar at my first Winter Conference on a cold weekend in February, I was back on campus, and my mind was unsettled. The campus minister who led the seminar had given me much to think about. I wasn’t so sure about my plans to find a future husband anymore. As if on cue, Weston asked me about it at our next lunch.
I had been dreading this conversation. Everything in me tensed up. All of my experiences with Christians leading up to this point had led me to believe that this conversation could only go one way: Weston would condemn me, I would lose RUF, which had become such a refuge to me by now, and I would still be unsure about what was right. I was braced for the worst.
Praise God, I was wrong. The conversation I had with Weston that day in the cafeteria is the single hour I think about most when someone asks why I became an RUF intern. For an hour, Weston did not condemn or shame me. He asked me questions about what it was like. He apologized for the way the Christians had treated gay people in the past. He listened and lamented with me as I told him everything: that it was hard to be alone and have to figure this out as a teenager; that it hurt when I trusted the wrong person and was outed before I was ready during my junior year; that my parents and I had come to a silent agreement not to talk about it, damaging our relationship for a few years.
Weston ended that conversation by offering to buy me a book, a book that would go on to change my convictions and lead me to embrace a biblical view of marriage and sexuality, and a book that is part of the intern study program: Washed and Waiting. There were harder conversations with Weston before I was convinced; he never once bought into the lie that loving me meant not telling me the truth about my sin. But he had already proven that he would be a friend to me no matter what. A lot like Jesus. So I trusted him.
It was after that experience my freshman year that I started thinking about the internship. My excitement and calling only grew over the next three years, as I saw how God used other interns on my campus after Weston left. By my senior year, it was the only job I could imagine applying for.
Once, when I was talking with Weston much later about all this, he said something like, “All I did was buy you a book.” There’s a sense in which he’s right; God alone is powerful enough to change hearts like mine and yours. But that doesn’t discount the fact that an RUF intern is the person God used to show me Jesus. Because he knew he was loved by Jesus, Weston was able to love me like Jesus: pursuing me when I was hurting, ashamed, lonely, and running from God. I wanted to become an RUF intern because I am the recipient of the unmerited favor, delight, and love of God, despite my sin and brokenness. And it was an RUF intern who first showed me that.