Since I arrived to Washington D.C. on January 8, I have had the pleasure of being a pastoral intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC). This is such a unique internship that I thought it would be helpful to have an insider's perspective on what we do as interns.
I spend about 5-10% of my time writing. We interns are tasked with writing thoughtful reflections about each reading (although sometimes multiple readings are reflected on in one paper). By the end of the 5 month internship, we will have written a total of 79 papers (mostly 3-page papers, with a few 5-page papers, and two 10-page papers). Mark Dever, the senior pastor at CHBC, reads the papers and provides some feedback. The papers serve as the jumping-off points for our weekly intern discussions that Mark leads.
Almost every Thursday, we have "Intern Discussion." We go through each book we've read since the previous discussion. Mark will direct questions to each intern about their writing in order to stimulate lively conversation. The CHBC staff sits in a circle around us as we discuss and they provide feedback and chime in when they wish. These discussion helps to crystallize in mind the major points from the readings.
Apart from reading, writing, and discussion, the interns do a lot of observing. We observe elder meetings (except for the executive sessions), staff meetings, membership interviews, special 9Marks interviews, weddings, and funerals. As interns, we are brought into the life of the church as well, attending Core Seminars, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, and Wednesday evening Bible study.
The pastoral internship program here at CHBC usually has around 6 interns, but this semester we have an unprecedented 8 interns. One is a Swedish pastor. One is from Kenya and Uganda. One is from Guyana. One is from MacArthur's church and is headed to pastor in Florida. One was already a member of CHBC. One is a Miami multi-site church. One is from Louisville (Al Mohler's office to be precise). And then one is me. We're a diverse group and it is wonderful to get to know these guys.
I have been struck by the sheer kindness of CHBC in hosting us interns. They have digested the truth that God intends to display His manifold wisdom through the church (Eph. 3:10) and they have put it into practice by pouring into men who desire to serve God in the local church. Wherever the Lord leads me in the future to pastor, I hope to be able to be a part of raising up future church leaders (much like CHBC has done).
When a married couple become parents, it is expected that these new parents will take it upon themselves to teach their child important life lessons and spiritual truths. You have heard it before, I'm sure: "Children are sponges." As a new dad, I can already see it in my son's eyes. When I hold him or am changing him, he looks at me blankly, as if he's waiting for me teach him something new. Kids are sponges and are learning, whether or not their parents take up the charge to teach or not.
In these first few weeks of fatherhood, however, I am finding that I am the one who is doing a lot of the learning. I am learning so much from my son, Oliver. Of course, I have learned how to swaddle him so that he can't wiggle his arms out. I have learned how to change a diaper in the dark. I have learned how to position my son in order to get a good burp. I am learning how to identify his different cries. Waaaaah means "I need something." Waaaaah (silent) means "I needed something but now I am just upset since you didn't give it to me on time." Waaah Waaah Waaah (with big breaths between each one) means "I really don't like this." And so on and so forth.
I am learning many practical dad things, yes, but I am learning so much more.
I am needy.
It's 3:30 a.m. I told my wife I'd take the first shift.
"When he cries, you'll get him right?"
"Yes," I agree.
Then, after what seems like a short cat nap, I hear his cry and it's growing. Oliver has woken up, probably hungry and needing a diaper change. I stumble through the darkness, hardly able to hold myself up for tiredness, and come to his bassinet. I go through the motions, tending to his needs.
But what if neither I nor his mom woke up? Oliver wouldn't have climbed out of his bassinet (he can't even turn himself over yet). Oliver wouldn't have army crawled to the kitchen to grab a bottle to heat up. He wouldn't have climbed up the changing table to grab a fresh diaper and wipes. He needs me and his mom. He needs us for everything. At this young age, he even at times needs help moving his head from one side to another. He is needy.
This is when it clicks. This is me. My son is a living object lesson--a living, breathing sermon, if you will--reminding me of my own incredible neediness and dependence on the Lord at every moment and for every task.
I am reminded of the rich young man who threw up his hands in frustration at the seeming impossibility of attaining salvation. He asked Jesus, "Then who can be saved?" (Mk. 10:26). Jesus responded, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God" (Mk. 10:27). The opposite of this is also true: All things are impossible without God. Just like a newborn baby, we are totally helpless to do anything. We are utterly dependent on our Heavenly Father. Only He can save; we are needful of His sovereign care at every moment.
God is patient.
When the cries seem un-ending, I am reminded also of the limit to my patience. It is those times when nothing seems to console him. Nothing helps, not even the trusty giraffe pacifier he's started to love. It is those times that I am tempted to drown out the crying with other thoughts.
It is not so with God. God leans in to hear the cries of his saints. Jesus' disciple Peter reminds us about God's patience: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Pt. 3:9). So, as my patience wears thin, God's patience remains constant and reliable.
God is ever-watchful.
I can remember one exceptionally tough semester in college when I pulled fourteen all-nighters just to finish papers and assignments. Since Oliver's birth I haven't pulled any all-nighters (except for the night of his birth), but I have felt that awfully dreadful drowsiness that comes from a lack of sleep again. My wife has reminded me that sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. If that's so, this has been a somewhat torturous season (even more for my wife than me). Don't get me wrong. I love my son and I love to hold him in the early watches of the night, but being sleep-deprived has an effect. For sure.
How different is God though? David the Psalmist says: "He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:3b-4). It is not torture for God to watch over his children; it is what He does and delights to do. He keeps vigilant watch; He doesn't slumber or sleep. He never tires of watching over us and sovereignly protecting us. Every night is an all-nighter for God, but His eyes don't grow heavy. He is ever-watchful.
My son has been such a gift to my wife and I! I am not sure why I am so surprised by how much the Lord is teaching me in this challenging new season of parenthood, but I am grateful for each moment of it.
Oliver "Olly" Grey Wilkins was born on July 24, 2015--a whole week early! We are so thrilled to be his parents and to raise this little guy to love and worship his Heavenly Father.