Washington, D.C., runs on adrenaline and 20-somethings. Young interns are always zooming from one place to another, doing their part in the running of this country. I’m one of them; but this summer, we all Zoomed a little differently.
Instead of finding an apartment, booking a flight, and showing up to the office in my new power outfit, I made the trek from my bed to my desk—less than five feet. My professional clothes hung unused in my closet, except for a jacket in case of a Zoom call with a politician. In our onboarding sessions, rather than asking where everyone comes from, we asked “Where are you quarantined?” Instead of sharing space with other interns or tagging along to Capitol Hill meetings, my time was structured into blocks on a Google calendar and squares on a Zoom call as I filed away my list of D.C. sights to explore. One afternoon, an intern joined our call from a coffee shop, and we all realized how shocked we were to see a public space open again.
I became frustrated with myself when I couldn’t stir up the motivation to write that one paragraph or read more chapters or schedule another networking meeting. I’m a huge extrovert; I get energized when in a group, at a library, or working in a coffee shop. But doing all of this online did not give me the same energy that I would have if I were actually in D.C. Yet, I’m thankful we still had the opportunity to intern when many found their summer plans canceled.
God’s work cannot be hindered by a virus
Rather than cancelling completely, my supervisors chose to painstakingly recreate the intern program, trying to make up for the losses of in-person interactions. I could have deferred the internship, and this was also a tempting offer. Why not wait until things get back to normal and go get my D.C. experience then? But waiting for conditions to be “perfect” would have been a mistake for me. If even the Supreme Court pushes on and still manages to hand down decisions, why shouldn’t I continue to work as well?
I don’t know when my city will fully reopen; I don’t even know what life will be like when I move back to school for my senior year. But I do know that waiting for things to be perfectly aligned in what I envision is counterproductive. Work doesn’t halt; it simply relocates. Injustice doesn’t care that there’s a pandemic. Uyghur Muslims are still persecuted, and human trafficking victims are still in danger even when a new disease ravages the world. There are still experiences to be had and lessons to be learned even from a laptop screen in the same room every day.
Patience can fit all formats
Interning remotely meant I needed more explanation with less time to get a handle on things. It meant I got all my information through Slack and emails, which became an issue when the internet cut out as a result of being overburdened at my house. It’s hard to determine inference or how someone is really feeling, which meant my strongest people skills initially felt obsolete in this format. My internship became a time of active waiting. These terms sound paradoxical, but they perfectly describe the daily choice I had to make to work hard even when I didn’t know what would happen next.
Every time I was kicked off a Zoom meeting due to internet issues, I tried to take a moment to breathe rather than groan and frantically click whatever I could to restore connectivity. I pushed myself to attend virtual coffee hours, game nights, and networking meetings because there are still stories to hear and friends to make. Seeing my supervisors work so hard to teach us well while also completing important work inspired me to do the same. Because others showed patience and understanding to me, I was motivated to give the same to others. This outlook of persistently pursuing connections and practicing patience turned what could have been a frustrating battle against technology into a richly rewarding internship and life experience.
God uses all situations for his glory and my benefit
An internship is not the pinnacle of this summer; it is the outflowing of a God-given initiative to discover his handiwork where it is evident and to seek biblical reform where it is not. I was taught about convictional kindness, human dignity, biblical diversity, and why I think office suits should become obsolete after the pandemic. We debated the death penalty, church culture, cancel culture, racial inequalities, tribalism, and more, but all encased with respect and care.
These kinds of conversations can, ironically, become more productive in a Zoom setting; one person spoke at a time rather than shouting over someone else. God sent me a variety of projects to work on and amazing people to work with. He offered new connections I could make over one-on-one Zoom calls and hilarious memories related to the question of the day asked during group activities.
That list of places to explore is still waiting for me. Someday I’ll make my way to D.C., but I’m not in charge of that decision. And that’s okay. God redirected my plans, and although difficult, he turned it into one of my best summers. I logged off my last ERLC Zoom meeting better equipped as a child of God and more knowledgeable of his work in the world. He used my doubts and the world’s uncertainty to show how he can bring good out of anything, and I am better for being a part of it.
In his book, Onward, Russell Moore points out that our lives are an “internship for the eschaton: “Our lives now are shaping us and preparing us for a future rule, and that includes the honing of a conscience and a sense of wisdom, prudence, and justice. God is teaching us, as he taught our Lord, to learn in little things how to be in charge of great things.”
My little thing this summer was an internship. Only God knows how it will be used or what the next great thing will be. But I’m learning to seek after God’s shaping rather than enforce my “perfect” plans.