It’s one of those things you can’t quite explain with one word. “How was your summer?” was a painfully simple question that was incredibly difficult for me to answer when I got back on campus in August.
A month ago today, I was finishing up my three month long internship with the United States Senate in Washington DC. By then, I have given at least 40 tours of the Capitol, attended 20 hearings and briefings, written 10 memos, visited most of the monuments and museums, and built up a repertoire of political jargon and knowledge. I worked alongside 16 fellow interns who I somewhat get along with, was elected intern class majority leader, and lived in a building full of housemates who were some of the best 20 year olds I’ve ever shared a house with.
I had the quintessential summer of a Congress intern. Never in my life have I learned, experienced, or achieved this much in a mere three months. There shouldn’t be anything to complain about.
Yes, my LinkedIn profile looks better than ever, and my resume has expanded so much that it has become difficult to fit my qualifications on one page – however, for reasons I cannot seem to zero in on, my heart felt completely empty.
I grew up loving routines. I am obsessively time-conscious, and am known for planning out every hour of my day. So, it’s safe to say I fit in pretty well with the DC crowd. I would wake up early in the morning, go on a run, take a shower, eat breakfast with my roommates, and then walk 0.3 miles to work. At the end of the day, I’d either spend even more time with my coworkers at a bar or at one of their homes, or go back to my apartment and watch Netflix with my roommates for a low key in-night.
Something in my life – in my daily routine, was blatantly missing. Something that defined me. That “something” was dead this summer. I constantly asked myself what was wrong with me, and why I felt that way.
My spiritual life was nonexistent. My bible and prayer journal were left to collect dust in the top shelf next to my bed. There was an incredible church with a loving community and superb intern bible study just 500 feet away from my apartment that I’ve made an effort to attend for only four services in three months.
What happened to me?
As I drove out of the city towards my junior year of college, mile by mile, the answers became clearer and clearer to me.
I was sucked into the “Capitol Hill lifestyle”. Capitol Hill is run by bright-eyed 20 to 30 year olds who are at the pinnacle of their careers. Constantly on their blackberries, slaving away for their Congressmen, these straight-outta-undergrad men and women have routines utterly structured around work. Their lives are consumed by politics; that’s their lifestyle.
When I asked a staff member who works in my office about work-life balance, he simply said, “You get what you signed up for. And you’d be signing your personal life away.”
His response appalled me. Big questions started bubbling up to the surface of my ocean of thoughts: Am I on the wrong track? Should I change my major? Should I change my vocational plans completely?
After conversations with my political science professor, many close friends, and my parents, the answer to those questions could not have been more clear…
No, I am not on the wrong track. No, I should not change my major or vocational plans completely.
God has blessed me with this summer on Capitol Hill for a reason. I was thrown into a spiritually pitch-black environment and He said to me, “Go and be a light” (Matthew 5:16). He gave me a glimpse and a trial run of how He is going to use me after graduation. I didn’t do so well on the trial run.
I had an unforgettable summer, but one thing I painfully regret is not mentioning Christ to all of the individuals I have encountered and spent time with this summer. As the only Christian in my office, I was afraid – of judgement, of being different, of being overlooked. It was easier to blend in, to be like everyone else.
But Jesus doesn’t do “easy”. That’s not what he called us to do. This past Sunday (my first service in a long time), my pastor unpacked the “Salt and Light” passage.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16
Now that it’s been a month, I am finally starting to recover from my crazy summer.
One word to describe it? Life-Changing.
This summer has set my feet on a path that the Lord has called me to walk upon. I may not be entirely equipped yet, but I know for a fact that He will never leave me to walk alone on this mission He has so clearly sent me on.
“Here am I, Lord – Send me.”