Bathroom stalls have become my holy ground. As I lock the door to a stall in an airport, at a gas station, or at camp, I feel a wave of relief wash over me. I sit down in silence, quietly sighing and secretly reveling in the opportunity to sit and stare and drift off into space while being at the mercy of no one but myself and my God. I pray, I breathe, and after a few minutes, I quickly bounce up from the toilet seat, grab my bag, and enter the world again. Refreshed and exhilarated. Never in my life did I think I would be calling a bathroom stall “sacred ground.” Yet here I am, reflecting on the three weeks of my Peace Internship thus far and the only phrase I can think to begin this post is, ironically, the one written above. Bathroom stalls have become my holy ground.
My name is Margie Quinn. I am a 22-year old from Nashville, Tennessee. A few weeks ago, I graduated from the University of Georgia with a major in Women’s Studies and a minor in French. Practical, I know. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that I will be unemployed after this summer. Apparently the job market isn’t chomping at the bit for the next best Women’s Studies major. Sorry, mom and dad. Before applying to become a Peace Intern through the Disciples Peace Fellowship, I had plans to move out to Seattle, Washington and work at my brother-in-law’s bouldering gym. I would hop in my beat-up Toyota Camry, throwing my cap and gown in the backseat, and zip across the country to begin the next chapter of my life as a tough, outdoorsy chick. Or so I thought. Clearly, as much as I tried to change my prayer from “Thy will be done” to “MY will be done,” God had other plans. Plans that led to my mom asking me each time I call her, “Okay, so which state are we in now?” Sometimes I have to ask myself the same question. Waldo and I have a lot more in common these days.
As a Peace Intern, I have the privilege of traveling to a different Disciples camp each week of the summer to have conversations with youth surrounding issues of Peace and Justice. I also have the opportunity to see, as my DPF Coordinator put it so well, “how the church lives in different parts of the country.” One thing is certain: the church is alive and well. My first stop was Indianapolis, Indiana for Training week. On the plane to Indianapolis, I wrote this in my journal: And so it begins. My Peace Intern summer. How do I prepare for a summer such as this? I packed everything in a backpack–leaving piles of clothes and old journals scattered about my room…Now, I want to turn my thoughts to God. To finding a deep, intimate relationship with God this summer. I’m nervous that I am not equipped enough to give a presentation or lead a small group. I didn’t bring any books or old journals with me. Other than that though, I feel okay. I just want God to use me, to transform my heart into something pure. No more pride, vanity, apathy, sarcasm, or judgment. I want to live like the person I follow. I want to turn off my life and turn on an urgency for God.
Upon arriving in Indy, we (the three Interns and our Peace Mama, Phoebe) started digging into the heart of what we were here to do. In my journal I jotted down phrases such as, “What can you actually achieve?” “Being true to yourself is HUGE,” “Come to the table,” “How to live your faith vs believe it” and “Injustice is not okay and THIS is why.” At the top of an entry from one of my first days in Indy, I wrote “Skin Shedding Summer.” After a few weeks, it is incredible how relevant this phrase has become. Each week I feel “emptied out and filled up,” simultaneously. I feel myself becoming stronger, recognizing the importance and spiritual significance of discomfort, loneliness, and new places. I grow thicker skin while shedding skin of uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. This doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. Just yesterday I found myself weeping in an empty cabin in Wetumpka, Alabama, eating yogurt pretzels that I had just purchased at Walmart while trying to remind myself that night #1 in a new place is always the hardest night. It does mean, though, that I trust the process. That I can trust a sleeping Jesus because while he may be asleep, he is still in the boat with me.
Donald Miller talks about sacrifice in one of his books. He tells the story of one of his favorite movies, “Friday Night Lights.” In the film, a football team sacrifices time, sweat, and energy to make it to the state finals. Despite their efforts and sacrifice, they lose. Miller notes though, that “they didn’t have to win for the story to be great. They just had to sacrifice everything.” Miller is of course, referring to the story of Jesus, too. He didn’t have to “beat the bad guys” for the story to be what it is. He just had to sacrifice everything. I remember this in times of trial this summer. If I pour my heart into these youth, into the work I am doing, and into the ultimate message of love and justice that Jesus so boldly told, I too can create a worthwhile story, whether I “win” or not.
I am learning how to speak truth fearlessly. I am learning how to let the spirit of God affect people’s lives. I am learning how to tell my story. How to be authentic. How to live like the person I am following.
To conclude this post, I want to leave you with a few more
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phrases I have jotted down in my journal along the way. Maybe in your lives, you are wrestling with these concepts just as much as I am.
“To be known in your pain is powerful.” “Sometimes anger is holy.” “Things will change in God’s time: don’t force it, be a witness to it.” “There is solace in uncertainty.”