I learned several important lessons in our nation’s capital this summer. 1) Don’t stand on the left side of the escalators on the metro; you’ll get yelled at and possibly whacked by the briefcase of some businessman on his way to work. 2) There are no political party lines on the dance floor. It doesn’t matter where your political allegiances lay, everyone gets excited when the Cha-Cha Slide comes on. And 3) God uses the most secular-seeming situations to stir spiritual growth.
To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting the summer to inspire my relationship with God in any way. I was excited to meet new people, work part time in a law office and part time in the office of a delegate from Virginia’s General Assembly, see the museums and monuments, and network with politicians at happy hour. Early on in the summer, I realized that most of the other 60 college students I lived with didn’t share my faith, that Sunday mornings are an excellent time to catch up on sleep, and that it is ridiculously difficult to let God into every aspect of my life, especially when my brain is busy drafting demand letters and doing policy research… That meant I could put my spiritual growth on hold, right? God will still be there at the end of the summer. Sure, I’ll still pray, go to church occasionally, and maybe flip through my Bible every now and then, but I don’t have to constantly pursue a relationship with him, right? Wrong. He had other plans for my summer.
In the first few weeks I felt God put the following verses on my heart: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Wow, that is a lot of rejoicing and praying and giving thanks. I found this passage is both discouraging and encouraging at the same time. Always, constantly giving thanks; surely that’s impossible. But it was also inspiring, and I believe it transformed my “secular summer” into an amazing faith journey.
Even though I didn’t have that community of people who reinforce, inspire, and sometimes challenge my faith like I have in Tacoma, through meditation of these verses I was able to feel God’s presence and see His glory all around me. In the homeless man who I passed every day outside my apartment, in the street evangelists who I had a theological debate with one day, in the metro operators who took the time to crack jokes rather than just announce “Orange line, next stop L’enfant Plaza”, and especially in those 60 college students who I lived with, worked with, and who became some of my best friends, His glory was evident.
I soon realized that it wasn’t so hard to rejoice and pray constantly (ok, I admit, I didn’t do it constantly, but way more frequently than I ever had before!), because there was so much to give thanks for. Every step in that dense, hot and humid air, every face I walked by on the street, every late night conversation about absolutely nothing, were all blessings. Even if God did nothing but use that passage to transform the way I thought about people, and the way I thought about Him, it was enough; enough to ensure that I did not put my relationship with Him on hold, and enough to ensure that my summer was anything but secular.