For the second time this month, I got to meet someone famous that I admire. This week, I got to meet one of my favorite YouTubers and authors, Jeff Bethke. He’s such a great guy with an incredible story of God’s grace at work in his life. Although he didn’t always follow Jesus with a relationship, God eventually got a hold of his heart while he was in college. A few years later, Jeff became famous when his spoken word poem, “Why I Hate Jesus But Love Jesus” went viral.
Since then, he has been able to make a career out of creating videos for his YouTube channel and has also authored two books: Jesus > Religion (inspired by his viral poem) and It’s Not What You Think (for which I am on the launch team). Those of you that follow me on social media know that I am a big fan of Jeff and have been following his work for about three years now. He has challenged me and inspired me in so many ways. In fact, he is the reason that I got interested in spoken word poetry and eventually came to become a spoken word artist in my own right. [Link to my spoken word playlist at the end of this post]
Needless to say, when I found out he was going to be at Olivet Nazarene University for both their chapel services this week (which is very close to my hometown), I was so excited! Jeff delivered a great message from Luke 15 about the prodigal son on Wednesday October 28, and then I waited in line with dozens of college students to meet him. When it was my turn and I told him my name, he remembered me from my review of his new book. He thanked me for my review and work on the book team, which was pretty awesome to hear from the author of the book himself. He signed both of my books and then I got a picture with him.
He said that it was nice to meet me, a feeling which was quite mutual. He even replied to my tweet of our picture later than day. He also delivered a great message on Thursday October 29 about bringing the kingdom in the here and now by being ministers of reconciliation in our world today. It was both encouraging and inspiring.
It’s so crazy to think that within only a few weeks’ time, I managed to meet both of my favorite YouTubers. Those of you that follow me also know that I met Jon Jorgenson of The Anima Series on October 13. I have so much admiration and respect for these two men, for their work has touched my life in so many ways, even before I ever thought I’d have the chance to meet them in person. I honestly don’t know what kind of person I would be without the challenges they left me and the inspiration they have given me over the time in which I followed their work. But as I have been thinking about how much I admire Jon and Jeff, I started to think about my perception of them verses the way that I used to view those that I admired from afar on the internet. My view has come a long way from where it used to be. Let me explain.
Where It All Started
I tend to have personality that my friends would call passionate and my enemies might call obsessive. If I like something and I see it as worthwhile, I’m going to put my whole heart into my interest and investment in it. In the case of my faith or things like social injustice, this trait is to my benefit. But throughout junior high, high school, and even through most of college, I tended to find myself devoting too much time to things that should have merely been hobbies or personal interests. This also tended to be the case with celebrities that I admired.
Through my last year of high school and my first two years of college, I was obsessed in the Jonas Brothers (*cough, cough*). I admired Joe, Nick, and Kevin so much, I got to point where I wanted to be like them and wanted to date Joe (*cough, cough*). Most people would say that I called them my role models. I spent way too much time on my computer and social media following them or watching videos of them. I would bet anything on their character and believed that they would never do anything that bad morally, especially in public.
I got to the point where I was passionately defending them for their faith, their character, and specifically their purity. I did this by making a series of YouTube videos that were supposed to give evidence of their faith, and also by arguing with anyone that disagreed with me on these videos’ comments. In fact, if you Google or YouTube search “Jonas Brothers Christians,” several of my videos are still leading that search. (I will explain more of the story of my YouTube channel in a future post) However, I now know that this was not the wisest use for my time and indicated that my heart was not in the right place about the situation. For the longest time, I was so sure that the Jonas Brothers would not disappoint me.
The Lesson Learned
Just after I came out of my JB-obsessed phrase, Joe and Nick Jonas started to slowly but surely prove me wrong. Eventually, the truth came out about why they stopped wearing their purity rings and how they struggled with their connection to the church after some issues their dad had faced in their childhood. They showed no regret or remorse for backing down on the faith they once professed, and slowed morphed into what the rest of the world was expecting them to become. I will never forget finding the article were Joe Jonas confessed that he was no longer a virgin in December 2013. Although I was no longer emotionally attached to them, I remember how sorry I felt for how lost Joe was, and how annoyed I was with myself for believing in them and defending them as avidly and incessantly as I did. But in that moment, I realized a powerful truth that has stuck with me ever since.
The definition of a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” When I started to think about it, no one that we encounter in this life is ever going to be a perfect role model. There is no one living on this earth that is really worth imitating their every move and character trait. It was crazy for me to believe that any person could live up to that expectation, especially when they are under pressure to be a role model like those guys were back then. Each and every one of the people that we would ever try to emulate will disappoint us – except one. That one is Jesus Christ. He is the only example we can ever try to emulate that will never disappoint us. As one of my favorite songs puts it, “He’s the One who lived a perfect life/He’s the One that always gets it right/He’s the One and only Guiding Light/ Oh yeah.” [Don’t Look at Me by Stacie Orrico] This is so true.
My grandpa (my mom’s dad) passed away a month before I was born, but there is something he said many times to my mom that I think applies. He told her,
“Kathy, people in this world will let you down. Everyone will let you down. Even I will let down. But Jesus is the only one who will never let you down.”
Although I never met my grandpa, I clung (and continue to cling) to these words of wisdom as I realized that I needed to rethink the way that I admire those I look up to. In the end, the Jonas Brothers let me down and disappointed me with the choices they made for their lives and careers. But because of them, I now know what it means to look to Jesus as my ultimate example of how to love God and love others every day of my life. That’s more valuable than a retweet or an autograph any day.
What Changed After That
By the time Joe Jonas’ story came out, I had been following Jeff’s work for almost a year and I just started following the Anima Series a few months before. But because of my lack of success in interacting with the Jonas Brothers online, any hopes I had of getting any celebrity or famous person I admired to notice me on social media was gone. The people I liked simply did not have the time to notice me on the Internet, and especially not in person. Or that’s at least what I thought. But in the end, Jon and Jeff both proved me wrong.
Some of you that read my post about Jon [link at the end of this post] know that Jon and I came to have an online connection before it finally worked out for us to meet in person. Jon actually took time to answer my emails and give me feedback on my art, which totally blew me away (and still does). With Jeff, I only recently connected with him through being on his book launch team, but it was even more awesome to have made that connection with him since he’s even more famous than Jon. He responded to a couple of my posts on the book team’s Facebook group and even read my review of his book [link at the end of the post]. I was also blown away that Jeff would take the time to respond to our reviews and our comments.
When it finally came down to meeting these guys, it was like I already knew them because I was so familiar with their work and their life stories. They both knew who I was, and they were so sweet and appreciative of what I’ve done for them (for Jon’s tour show and Jeff’s book team). They even both told me that they enjoyed meeting me. I was humbled by their acknowledgements of what I’ve done for them, because they have both done so much for me. I simply felt like I was returning the favor.
Because of what happened with the Jonas Brothers, I have stopped using the term role model, especially about celebrities and famous people. I stopped searching to imitate a whole person and have instead chosen to look for individual traits within a person that I wanted to aspire to. It’s a smarter way to better yourself, because you can admire people for their strengths without rejecting them for the weaknesses. One of the common traits both Jon and Jeff share is that they are honest about their weaknesses and past struggles. That makes it easier to admire someone’s strengths when they are willing to admit they aren’t perfect or they don’t have all the answers.
Now that I’ve met Jon Jorgenson and Jeff Bethke in person, I admire and respect them more than I did before. I hope that everyone can find people like this in your own life to admire, all the while remembering to follow Christ as our ultimate example of how to become a mature and complete person. “He’s the one that always gets it right,” and His example will never fail us.
[To read my review of Jeff’s new book, It’s Not What You Think, click here]
[To read my story about meeting Jon Jorgenson and The Anima Series Tour, click here]
[To read my brief reviews of Jeff’s other book & Jon’s first two books on my favorite Christian books list, click here]
[If you are interested in checking out my spoken word poems on YouTube, click here]