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Happy White Day!

Today, I woke up at 4:00 AM feeling very rested after sleeping a full 10 hours. Despite my initial misgivings, the 2-inch thick mat (in Korean, it is called a “yo”) that is on my bed in place of a mattress is actually very comfortable – once I get to sleep.

I awoke inspired to write. For the first time in at least two months, I finally took the time to journal my experiences so far in Korea. I was immensely satisfied with my accomplishments of waking up early AND  writing – two rare occurrences in my AL  (after law school began) life.

I entered the classroom for my first class, Global Antitrust Law, at 8:00 AM, hoping to be early enough to meet other students before the class commenced at 8:30. No one entered the classroom until 8:35 when the professor entered and began talking to me about my interest in human rights. After fifteen more minutes, one other student appeared, and we discovered that the class just might be canceled if not enough students decide to attend (the minimum for a class to be kept is five students).

After the class, I went to the office and got a student locker. The first key I was given opened a locker that was already being used, so I went back a second time to use my new key. This was for Locker # 13… it is a good thing I am not superstitious because waiting on my locker was a heart-shaped sticky note with the words written in capital letters: “Happy White Day!”

I am sure it was leftover from last semester, but the irony certainly brightened my day. I so far was the only white student in all of my law classes, something that until that moment of reading the note hadn’t really affected me. But as I was standing by the locker, excited squeals, laughter, and giggles as only girls can produce were echoing around me, and I had that feeling of being an outsider. A white outsider. Race-consciousness is a funny thing: I have decided I will refuse to let it bother me and I will not let it bother my relationships with others, but for all that, it is still semi-alive, lurking somewhere in the back of my consciousness.

There have been many very kind students here – it is not that I do not feel welcome. Many of the girls have gone out of their way to do things like eat lunch with me, or show me a classroom, or translate Korean for me. I feel very welcome. But I do feel very different, and it is almost as though everything I try or need to do requires someone else to help me somehow. Being independent, I hate this because 1) it limits me, 2) it makes me look incredibly incompetent, 3) it reminds me that I am a complete rookie and outsider, and 4) it causes someone else to be burdened.

Today was yet another day of learning more options and how behind I am when it comes to human rights and international law. I’m taking mostly upper level electives in international law and it is therefore disturbing to think that I’ve not had any basic introductory courses in international law before jumping into all of this. It is as though I am way ahead of expectations for myself, considering my background and personal history and opportunities, but for where I hope to be or where I want to be now, I am very behind.

Or maybe I just feel that way. Who knows yet? I suppose that remains to be seen this semester.

Tonight after my last class ended around 4:15, I decided to be brave and try Korean instant soup/noodles. I bought a few different varieties at the convenience store and as everything was in Korean, I had no idea what I was purchasing. My first experience with the Korean version of Ramen soup was definitely not boring! Not knowing what was in the seasoning packet, I happily dumped all of it in the hot water/noodle mixture, eager to taste the yummy-looking noodles. I proudly trotted over to a table with my soup and took my first bite. I am not sure which happened first: my tongue feeling like it had been coated with jalepeno pepper seeds, or my throat feeling like fire was coursing down it. Swallowing the noodles unleashed a fit of unstoppable deep coughing. (In my defense, I still have a very bad sounding cough that I frequently had to suppress today in class…) I’m sure the other people in the recreation room where I was eating were getting immense entertainment by my obviously first encounter with Korean noodles. Determined that I was going to finish that soup for dinner or do without, I decided that I’d just try to avoid the broth and eat the noodles. After about five bites, my new plan seemed to be working – or maybe my taste buds had simply become numbed. Either way, I ate most of the soup and actually quite enjoyed it!

All in all, my first day of classes was a success. I was definitely reminded that I was not in Kansas anymore, but I don’t feel any desire to click the heels of my ruby red slippers. I like Korea! Happy White Day!


My Way

I woke up Thursday morning around 4:30 to get all my things together and start the last minute rush to make it to the Minneapolis Airport on time for my 7:45 AM flight. A little over four hours later, all my good byes had been said, I had made it to Chicago, and I was on board a 777 Boeing, settling in for a 14 hour flight to Seoul. Even when the plane began its ascent, it did not feel real that I was actually going to Korea. I was just grateful that the sinus decongestant that I had picked up 30 minutes before my flight was actually working and the head cold that had previously prevented my ears from equalizing was finally not interfering this time! (The flight from Minneapolis to Chicago had been brutal.)
On the way over, I rehearsed the plan numerous times in my mind: get through immigration checks, get through customs, get my luggage, find a payphone, call Ho-Seok, find the bus station, buy a ticket, and board the bus to Pohang. I would have to be ready to board the bus in an hour from landing. Thinking of all that could go wrong (I randomly end up on the wrong bus, I miss the first bus and have to wait 3 hours until the next, I get kidnapped at the airport by sex traffickers, I never get picked up from the bus station at Pohang by Ho-Seok, I somehow get kidnapped while traveling on the bus, etc.) was easy to avoid for the first 2 hours of the flight. Talking to my neighbor, Kim, was incredibly fun. She was a graduate of Liberty University, a few hours away from Regent, who was headed to Korea to teach English. After talking with her for an hour, we ate dinner and both decided to bravely try the Korean option: bibimbop, a dish with rice and mixed vegetables and various side dishes. One of the side dishes was dried fish of some sort that more closely resembled tiny minnows without tails. Their eyes and vertebrae were still very much intact, however! As I ate two mouthfuls, I merely thought how much protein I was eating.
After trying to sleep a few hours, reading, talking, and not finding anything interesting to watch, I was bored out of my wits and began watching a Korean thriller that showed a police officer’s daughter being kidnapped and trafficked in Seoul. After this. the doubts were much harder to silence.
I began thinking long and hard about my way. Was this “my” way, or God’s way? Would he let me be trafficked here, or did he have a plan apart from that for me? Was this me reading too much into everything, or should I be legitimately concerned? Could I ever live with myself if I were to become a heroin-saturated trafficking victim? Would I lose my God as I lost my mind?
At 4:00 PM Korean time, our flight landed promptly in Incheon, near Seoul. My first glimpse out the plane window showed a few green mountains, an overcast sky, and a huge airport. I went through immigration and customs just fine and ended up even getting my luggage within 20 minutes of getting off the plane. Next, I found my way to the currency exchange station, then found a payphone, and dialed Ho-Seok’s number. He never answered. I had about 20 minutes left to find the bus station, buy a ticket, and board. I couldn’t risk missing that bus. I would figure something out on the way. My ears had decided they didn’t want to cooperate any longer, and they never equalized from the plane’s descent. I felt deaf and stupid as I had to ask people to repeat themselves when I would try to get directions.
I hurried to the door I’d been told was the bus station exit. I crossed the street, and voila! There was the ticket booth! After purchasing my ticket to Pohang, I stood in line for the bus. In my head, I was rehearsing options: did I write Ho-Seok’s number down incorrectly? I didn’t write the second contact’s phone number down (Why didn’t you remember to do this, Sarah????) and I never wrote the school’s address down (Again, Sarah, brilliant. What am I supposed to do when I get to the bus station and have no idea where to tell the taxi driver to go???), so my options were becoming more limited. It didn’t matter: I was where I was supposed to be, and I was on my way. Nevermind that my cell phone didn’t work, and I had no idea how I would contact Ho-Seok.
The bus took off right on time. I watched, fascinated, as mountains rolled past my window, along with some water, a few large apartment complexes, and some dilapidated looking houses. About 20 minutes into our drive, we passed a very modern looking city that had a Starbucks on a corner road… I immediately thought of my friend Candace and our adventure at Starbucks in Switzerland last month. Then I remembered what Candace is always telling me: “Jesus has this.” That relaxed me a bit, and I became incredibly sleepy.
I slept on and off until the bus pulled into a bus stop around 7:30. Everything was dark by this time. The driver parked, then barked out some Korean that sounded like an order, and then people began getting off the bus. I had no idea where we were, but I knew it wasn’t Pohang (because that was supposed to be 5 hours away!) and although I was incredibly thirsty and having difficulty breathing (the air was incredibly humid and my nasal congestion wasn’t helping anything).
A Korean woman walking by my seat looked down at me and very sweetly explained that we had 15 minutes to get out and then the bus would leave again. What an angel she was to take pity on the poor confused blonde! I rushed off, found a payphone, dialed Ho-Seok’s number again, and this time, he answered! I told him where I was and he explained that he’d be at the bus stop. Feeling much better about life, I then found some apple juice and reboarded the bus. A few hours later, the bus again pulled into a stop, but this time, it was merely a city corner, and I had no idea whether it was Pohang or not. Again, I simply waited, and sure enough – it wasn’t Pohang. Next stop was my destination.
When we finally pulled into another stop, everyone acted like they were collecting their belongings and preparing to leave, but the “stop” was a gas station, and there was no one there to meet me. I decided to simply wait yet again, and sure enough – the bus driver had merely stopped to talk with someone at the station for some reason. He climbed back in the bus, and away we went again! FINALLY, we arrived in Pohang, and I got out and collected my luggage. I still didn’t see anyone, but by the time I’d lugged all three of my heavy duffel bags onto the sidewalk, I heard someone ask whether I was Sarah, and there was my hero, Ho-Seok!
We took a taxi to the university, and I entered Bethel Hall – my home for the next week. I was a day early, I learned, so I needed to pay $5 extra for the night. NO problem! At this point, I was a hot, sticky mass of sweat and frizz, and I just wanted a shower and a clean bed. Ho-Seok, my valiant hero, translated everything for me and told me that I was assigned room 422. Unfortunately, he was sorry, but he could not help me bring my bags to the 4th floor because it was an all-girls’ floor and he was not allowed there. I took the elevator to the 4th floor, and was greeted right away with dozens of shoes and sandals all over the floor right before the hall way. I remembered I was in Asia, and removed my smelly sneakers. Then I walked up to 422 and of course, no one opened the door. I had no key code, so I walked back downstairs (taking the stairs because the elevator didn’t work) and while dripping into a puddle in the hall’s main office, tried to explain that no one was in the room to let me in. The office worker followed me back and had similar luck. She then said that I could stay in her room for the night. She helped me get all situated and I learned that her name was Hyo-Hyung, but I could call her Clara because that was her English name.
My first night in Korea was a blur of sweat, confusion, and thirst. I did manage to take a shower in a public shower area (something to get used to for the week), and I unpacked and slept surprisingly well on a tiny 2-inch thick substitute for a mattress. Clara had told me about church the next morning, so I woke up around 8:00 and found my way to the campus chapel for service. It was very enjoyable, despite stifling deep coughs and sniffles during the sermon and prayers.
After it ended, I met an extremely kind 2L named Esther who volunteered to show me around campus a bit. She brought me to the campus convenience store which happened to be in the basement of my dorm, and then took me to the law school classroom building where I was finally able to access wireless internet! I then met a professor and his wife and family, the Mundys, for lunch. They were incredibly kind and made delicious eggs and biscuits – a very welcome reminder of the States!
Then I walked back to my dorm and was found by another 2L student, Rachel, who was going to give me a campus tour. Rachel and I hit it off immediately. She is from Kenya and can identify with the adjustment that “Korean time” creates. In her words, “Korean time is supposed to be about flexibility – that you are flexible and just have to go with it. It isn’t that way. Instead, everything is last minute and either it works or it doesn’t. There is no flexibility!” I couldn’t agree more. BUT, I’m learning that if it works, it was supposed to, and if it doesn’t, be prepared next time!
Talking with Rachel was the first time I really felt at home here. I love the friendly people, especially Clara, but everything was so different and required some sort of adjustment from me, that it was nice to simply be with Rachel and not worry about whether I had to be somewhere or do something or somehow make up for someone else’s mistake or miscommunication.
After our tour ended, I got a computer converter and ethernet chord at the campus store and returned to my room in much better spirits. Clara was there, and we began talking.
She opened up to me and shared her background and come to find out… she’s an International Studies major who toured Europe for a month in January! What a small world. We then began talking about what Clara calls “our visions” and “ways.” She said she didn’t know what her way was, where she was supposed to work, what she was supposed to do, etc. I told her that I didn’t know mine either, but I felt very sure of my focus.
She didn’t know, but just a few hours earlier, I’d been discussing my plans with a professor and was yet again overwhelmed with how many options there are and how impossible they all seemed. I had begun to seriously doubt whether I was even supposed to be here.
But talking with Clara totally reaffirmed that I do in fact know my way. I do not know where it will take me, but I do know that I am supposed to be taking it. God has led me this far, and despite appearances, I think I will learn to fit in well here. Everything was new, yes. But I expected it to be. I really love the people at the school here, and I can learn to live with the humidity. The mat I have already gotten used to, as I slept a full 10 hours before waking up at 4:00 AM here to write.
I am blessed beyond measure. I have a chance to find more of my way. And I am now confident that my way leads to Korea.

Wave Watching

This weekend, back at Virginia Beach, I sat on the edge of the ocean for hours, just watching the waves and letting them wash over me. For whatever reason, I realized that I have not been “casting all my cares” on God. I’ve been carrying them around, feeling responsible to change so much that I cannot, feeling the hurt of people I cannot help, putting pressure on myself to somehow be perfect, or at least measure up to what I perceive to be people’s expectations of me as an intern. Watching the waves’ constant rhythm, their fluidity and brevity, reminded me that when I bring something to God in prayer, I lay it at His feet and then release it. Like a wave that, after foaming onto the sand, quickly turns back into the water and is completely gone, my expectations and anxieties, my “problems,” are taken care of, final. In a sense, gone. The problems may not disappear, but my sense of responsibility for fixing them does because it is only through the strength that God provides, not my own, that I will be able to cope. In other words, I was reminded that the powerful God who created the awesome ocean with all of its majestic, surging waters is the same God who cares about me and rules the universe (which means, of course, that I do NOT! lol). I know it is no coincidence that the verse immediately preceding 1 Peter 5:7 says we must humble ourselves under “God’s mighty hand.” It would make no sense to cast our cares on God if He were not able to fully take them and give us strength to deal with them, nor is it possible to really cast our cares on Him if we have too high of an opinion of ourselves and our abilities as we will simply just attempt to fix everything on our own and be self-centered by being self-focused… I guess what I’m trying to communicate is that I should be making much more of an effort to release my feelings of inadequacy and self-focus and rather spend that energy reveling in God’s greatness and resting in His ability to accomplish His perfect will.

In Now

The sunshine disappears as tunnel blackness envelops the metro car. I am now on the metro. An occasional light blurs by the window as the familiar combination of screeching, scratching, and clacking noises assaults my ears. Riding the metro is somehow enjoyable, grungy orangish-red carpets and all. Perhaps it is the speeding of the train, or the feeling of not being in control but simply a passenger along for the ride. Perhaps it is the constant rushing. Whatever it is, it reminds me that I am in the now. It reminds me that time never waits.
My first day in Fairfax, I got lost. I had never navigated my way around before, and I could not find the office. My boss had told me to come by on Sunday afternoon so I could get a “test run” in before Monday. After finally going several miles past the office, I called my boss to get directions. “Great,” I thought, “what a way to make an impression…I can’t even find my way around the less crowded area of town!”
I eventually arrived at the office. I knew my internship was going to be crazy when after a few minutes, my boss informed me that I was going to be putting “at least” forty hours a week in. I was determined to give it my best shot, and I was excited to get to finally begin. That day was symbolic of the hurry that I’ve since experienced. Life is rushed; I am always rushing, always tired, never completing what I hoped to, often feeling lost.
My first day seems so far off now. I’ve only been here a little over three weeks, but already, the first few days seem like a distant thought. On the actual first day, I got a crash course in Nigerian history and current crises. Within five days, I had read about 3,000 pages on Nigeria, not counting the 15+ hours of online research I’d conducted. By the end of the second week, I had drafted an analysis that was over 20 pages for the International Criminal Court. I’ve been able to attend the emergency Congressional hearing on Chen Guangcheng, the blind and incredibly brave Chinese activist, and I have attended various press conferences and human rights meetings. I am currently working on getting a terrorist organization designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
If you would have told me several weeks ago that I would have only two weeks in which to research and write the draft for the International Criminal Court, I would have said you were crazy and that I could never do it. But I’m learning that God is faithful to always provide strength and the ability to accomplish whatever is asked of me.
The people surrounding me on the metro look worn, tired. Vacant stares adorn most faces. Vacant, yet alive. Not like the vacant stare of a corpse.
Reading the accounts of post-election violence in the twelve northern states of Nigeria (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara), of the thousands of lives claimed by the militant Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram; learning of the recurring violence in the Jos area of Plateau State, the thousands who have died in senseless killings, especially Christians; reading account after account of deaths caused me to become calloused to the violence. I couldn’t allow myself to be in the now. I couldn’t fully empathize: I was overwhelmed with the deadline and time crunch, so I would work 9-11 hours a day during the week, trying to speed through just to get everything read. I knew that if I were to really understand the violence and its consequences, to really feel what was possible for me to comprehend of the loss caused by the violence, I would be incapable of getting out of bed for the rest of the summer. But mostly, if I were to allow myself to fully comprehend what I was reading, to understand as fully as possible – for me, a person who has never been threatened with violence, let alone, death – I would be slowed down from the reality of just now -the now that seems to consume all else, the living that strangles the life, limits, the rushing to meet another deadline like a rushing to board a crowded metro before it speeds away.
At the office, I live in just now. But in DC, I live in the now. Having to go to DC for various meetings and Congressional hearings gave me the chance to sit on the metro with nothing better to do than think. It allowed me to walk to my destinations. Although life was always fast-paced, DC actually allowed me to slow down and remember that I have a life, that I am not simply living.
Realizing that one must keep sight of life while living is bittersweet. It seems impossible to actually have a life while there are so many deadlines, so much to learn and do, so much evil to fight; so much living to choke the life out. Unless, and here’s the trick, one’s life consists of living the just nows as the nows. Then every second is full of life.
A few days ago, I watched actual film footage of the violence in Jos during 2011. Corpses waiting to be buried cover the ground while women and men wander around them in a state of shock, confusion, and terror. Some corpses are mutilated from bomb explosions; others have been dismembered with machetes; still others have been beheaded. The charred remnant of one corpse was visible in the midst of smoking ruins of a house in which the person had been burnt alive along with her small child. In Jos, and most other areas of Nigeria experiencing violence, most of the victims are Christians. Their only crime is to be a Christian; for that, they are slaughtered. Yet the Nigerian federal government, rather than protecting its people from such brutalities, fails to provide security from violent (often Muslim) murderers and even instigates the violence, in some instances.
It is so difficult not to be overwhelmed with how limited my knowledge, skills, and time are in comparison to the magnitude of suffering experienced by not just those in Nigeria but around the world. There is so much injustice, so much evil: I could spend my entire life madly trying to fight evil, but I will simply be running in circles if I do not remember the Life. Jesus promised that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He said that in this world we will have trouble, but we should “take heart” because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
I am living now. I am living the now. I am here for such a time as this. We all are. God has commanded us to love others and given us all opportunities and platforms from which to do so. Romans 12:21 says to not be overcome with evil, but instead to overcome evil with good.
The train arrives at my stop. I exit the car and head up the crowded escalator, letting people hurriedly pass. I’m walking to a symposium on issues relating to the Korean Peninsula. My ever-present doubts tag along, making my feelings of inadequacy come back. I haven’t studied anything on Korea in over a year. And yet, somehow I push those feelings back and continue walking, knowing that I am where God wants me and doing what He has directed me to. I will move forward with His strength, not mine.
I have so much yet to learn about human rights advocacy in general, as well as learning to consciously place my faith in God to work things out for His glory while I simply take one step of faith at a time, trusting Him to work out the larger picture. I must learn to keep sight of His Life rather than my strivings and attempts at living without Him. When I am tempted to entertain feelings of inadequacy and doubts as to whether any change really can be effected, I must remember the God who is unconstrained by time and limits. Now. In this moment, I must know that He has always been, and always will be, God. When I surrender my just nows to Him and remember that every moment He gives is precious, a new opportunity to live and enjoy His presence, the stressful and tiring just nows become the nows. Rather than not having time to live because we’re too busy living, we may experience life fully. Every glorious moment of it. Which now will you choose?

Never Again

I’m through. I am not ever going to be passive when it comes to relationships again. I have too little time and too many standards to allow time to be taken by people who do not share similar life goals. Now, the trick will be sticking to my goals and not getting side-tracked with alluring distractions. This summer will prove to be a very good growing experience… if I can survive it!

Hebrews 12: Remember the goal and don’t lose heart!

Suddenly the Slowness

Listening to the Adagio movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2 is like taking a deep breath while standing out under the hundreds of stars in a crisp winter evening. Being nowhere and yet everywhere, feeling nothing in particular and yet everything. Imagining the potential, dormant life, the what-ifs feeling as if they are had-beens. Tangible phantoms dancing in your head, in front of your eyes, inhaled in. Slowly.

And knowing, really knowing, that everything is right. Slowly, the suddenness sinks in.

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

-Isaiah 40:21-26

10,000 Reasons

I have to read 30 pages of Contracts. And Torts… 20 pages, I think. Ok. I can do that by Contracts class at 10:25. Oh. I have to read Civ Pro too…”
In my mind, I recited my list of things to do before class, opened my eyes a minute before 5:20 AM, then began thinking of the research paper I had to edit sometime today.

I couldn’t do it. I knew I had to wake up, but I had no strength. My eyes refused to focus. They stung. Threatened to remain shut if I tried to open them. Eight times I tried to sit up and swing my feet off the bed onto the floor. Eight times I gave up and flopped helplessly back on my pillows.

Four hours later, I finally forced myself to stumble into the shower. After trying to pray for strength repeatedly, and falling asleep each time, I finally mumbled an eloquent “God, please get me through today” as I turned on the water. The squeal of the faucet knobs as I adjusted the water temperature reminded me that I was no longer asleep.

I never read for my first class today.

I haven’t been able to really read anything in a semester, it seems. Everything has been rushed, not fully absorbed.

I could list at least thirty reasons I feel overwhelmed, upset, hurt, inadequate, and as if I am both failing and a failure.

In fact, I think I’ve been indulging myself in coming up with way more than thirty reasons today.

But for those thirty reasons, though they are valid, and I’ve never felt so physically worn, mentally and emotionally worn out, there are at least one hundred more reasons to give thanks.

Give thanks in every circumstance.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

A certain song writer by the name of Matt Redman would say there are 10,000 reasons for praising God.

I don’t know if I will be able to finish law school. I don’t even know if I will be able to get up tomorrow, much less finish writing my paper tonight.

I know that I am on the brink. The abyss is waiting, eager to swallow me whole.

But I also know that my God is stronger than any powers, whether in heaven, earth, or hell; I know that my God calls me his child, regardless of whether I pass this semester; I know that nothing can separate me from His love. I have a million reasons to be thankful. Even if I lose everything, and there is a very real possibility that may happen, I will be found in Him. I will not be lost, for He will always hold me.

“Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before,
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name.”
-10,000 Reasons, Matt Redman

The Beautiful Is

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction.”
-William Osler
Am I apathetic? Am I prideful?
I’d like to say I’m not. But I am.
Pride is the inability to focus on what is, the I AM. Pride instead focuses on what we think is, who we are, and who we think we could be. If our focus is on ourselves, we will never be content, we are incapable of satisfying ourselves and our deep need for perfection. We should all be perfectionists: people pursuing the Perfect One relentlessly, not people trying to perfect themselves with their imperfect attempts. Will I let my desire for perfection drive me closer to the One who defines all else, or will I try to be greater than He is? Tell Him my plan and require Him to approve it?
Am I apathetic? I’d like to think I’m not. But am I apathetic about what is most important? Am I focusing on reality or only my perceived reality? Am I relentlessly living for the God who spoke the world into being, or am I trying to mean the world to others?
How can I so quickly forget? And why do I so frequently go after what I know will not be enough, while ignoring the One I know I need?

“Watch and pray, so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
-Matthew 26:41

I was encouraged multiple times today to lean again on God. On “just” God, and yet, EVERYTHING on God. Somewhere along the way, I’ve decided I’ve become self-sufficient, that I can somehow handle everything, or be responsible for everything. I think I must find my own strength. Be good enough. Be more. Reach perfection.

I cannot.

I will never find perfection in my own futile attempts to try. I must fly on the wings of the Perfect, take time every day, every hour, every thought, to cherish His perfection. To see Him for who HE IS, to be reminded of who he is and then by default, who I am.

“It is not simply that God has arbitrarily made us such that He is our only good. Rather God is the only good of all creatures… but that there ever could be any other good, is an atheistic dream… If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows – the only food that any possible universe ever can grow – then we must starve eternally.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 41-42)

I am not perfect, but He loves me. He is perfecting me: not for my own satisfaction, but so that I will be more lovable and able to appreciate His perfection more. This inevitably leads to incomparable satisfaction, but it is not the end goal; I am not the focus. And knowing that, really knowing it, is so incredibly freeing.

Over break, I read C.S.Lewis’s book “The Problem of Pain.” I am reminded of a section from the third chapter of the work, titled “Divine Goodness.”

“When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some “disinterested”, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of his love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “lord of terrible aspect”, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, nor the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word “love”, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest ‘well pleased.’ To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities – no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt…What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.

“I plainly foresee that the course of my argument may provoke a protest…it may be objected that a mere reversal of our own ethics is precisely what we have been asked to accept. The kind of love which I attribute to God, it may be said, is just the kind which in human beings we describe as ‘selfish’ or ‘possessive,’ and contrast unfavorably with another kind which seeks first the happiness of the beloved and not the contentment of the lover…

“The truth is that this antithesis between egoistic and altruistic love cannot be unambiguously applied to the love of God for His creatures. Clashes of interest, and therefore opportunities either of selfishness or unselfishness, occur only between beings inhabiting a common world: God can no more be in competition with a creature than Shakespeare can be in competition with Viola. When God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary…But God in His transcendence cannot easily be thought of in the same way. We call human love selfish when it satisfies its own needs at the expense of the object’s needs…None of these conditions is present in the relation of God to man. God has no needs. Human love, as Plato teaches us, is the child of Poverty – of a want or lack; it is caused by a real or supposed good in its beloved which the lover needs and desires. But God’s love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all the goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative, love-ability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense, all His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive.Hence, if God sometimes speaks as thought the Impassible could suffer passion and eternal fullness could be in want, and in want of those beings on whom it bestows all from their bare existence upwards, this can mean only, if it means anything intelligible by us, that God of mere miracle has made Himself able so to hunger and created in Himself that which we can satisfy. If He requires us, the requirement is His own choice.” (pp. 48 – 50)

God has granted me sight to see and appreciate the Beautiful, the Good, His Being. Will I continue to see through His eyes, be so in tune with His heart that my heart breaks for what breaks His, and rejoices for what gladdens His? Or will I instead be like Peter, James, and John when with Jesus in Gethsemane, they failed to realize his heart was sorrowful,even after spending years with him, and hearing him tell them that he was grieved and requested their prayers? Instead of praying, they slept. Will I choose sleep, my own good, over what He would ask? Will I apathetically ignore the Good, pursuing the ugly instead of the Beautiful?

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
-Micah 6:8

Healing Begins

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
– 1 John 1:5-10

Healing Begins (listen)

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you’re good
And you can’t believe it’s not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let ’em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won’t disappear

So let it fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now
We’re here now, oh

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

Sparks will fly as grace collides
With the dark inside of us
So please don’t fight
This coming light
Let this blood come cover us
His blood can cover us

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark

– Healing Begins, by Tenth Avenue North

Friday Night in Law School

It’s Friday night, and I am in the hallowed halls of the third floor law library, enjoying the silence and emptiness that both reminds me I am dedicated to my work and I have no social life.
I’m definitely OK with the first, and the second doesn’t really bother me yet.
Oddly enough, I’m learning to love studying in the library. I’ve always loved libraries, but until a few weeks ago, I never felt like I could study here very well. It seemed too forced, too cold and unforgiving.
But now that I’ve softened my discipline and given in to the temptation of sleep when I should be studying, I’ve discovered that the forced stiffness and unforgiving coldness of the library keeps me focused and encourages productivity.
So far, this semester has been… simply going. It’s not been as horrible, nor as noteworthy, as I had been expecting. I have survived weeks of less than five hours of sleep each night, read around 1,600 pages, taken two exams, and written three papers. It’s been like a continuous marching into the cold. Each mile marched seems colder and harder than the previous: cold feet begin to hurt, soreness settling in deeper with each step; legs start giving way as the weight they hold up seems to increase with each movement; breathing becomes more painful and sharp as the cold increases and the lungs tire. The saving numbness that inevitably comes softens the sharpness, while simultaneously increasing the deadness that each step seems to bring closer.
I’d never felt overwhelmed until Fall Break. I worked over 50 hours on writing a paper that seemed determined to elude me. I cannot ever remember experiencing writer’s block more acutely. Headaches, fatigue, slight depression – mostly felt only for a few hours before final papers would be due in undergraduate work. This was a new beast for me.
Until that point, I’d been keeping up in class for the most part, I felt like I could keep up with the material and concepts (with the occasional crazy topic throwing me) for the most part, and, dare I say, I was beginning to think that law school really wasn’t that tough…
Then came the paper.
God gave me strength to finish it, and somehow I have survived the past two weeks before it was due. I handed it in on Wednesday, and I’ve never been so thankful to be finished with a project as I was for this!
I am rambling.
That’s ok… I rarely get to indulge in rambling thoughts anymore. They all must be structured in IRAC form: Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. Briefs, papers, thoughts. Boring? Maybe. I rather enjoy it. But I do miss the creative writing that I was able to do in the last few years.
This week has made me realize how quickly time has been passing since I’ve come to school. It has already been three months almost. I feel like it has been less than two weeks some days and a lifetime.
So many contradictions.
I wanted to go to a student-hosted bonfire tonight with the 1L class, but then I felt tired this afternoon and decided I’d rather sleep, then I remembered that I hadn’t outlined Torts or Contracts in over a month, and finals are coming up in about a month, and… here I am in the library.
I love being surrounded by so many books. Three floors of books, rows and rows of law reviews, law encyclopedias enough to keep me busy for ten lifetimes, horn books and treatises in abundance, everywhere I look is some gem of legal theory, explanation, or decided law.
I am meant to be here. I love this life. As pathetic as it sounds, I love being able to throw myself wholeheartedly into my studies. I am so deliciously independent right now – no one is depending on me, no one is adversely affected if I put in 15 hour study days, I can bring my work home with me, and if I want to, I can spend the rest of my life inside the library eating up information as fast as my greedy mind can grab it.
The only regrettable aspect of law school that I can see right now is its constant demands on my time. The steady deluge of assignments and mostly reading, keeps me focused on Contracts, Torts, Civil Procedure, Property, and Christian Foundations of the Law instead of those whom I’m here fighting for.
But I’m trusting God to maintain that passion – I know it is not gone, it is simply taking backseat to my learning. Once I learn more, I will be able to apply what I am learning to the problem, and I will become fully engaged again.
Honestly, it feels amazingly good to know that I am, right this minute, doing something to prepare myself for that fight. Knowing the fight will never lessen, the intensity will only increase, is both scary and thrilling. I cannot imagine going back now, nor do I want to. If I let myself, I can become worried about whether I’ll have the strength to continue, but then I remind myself that worrying about my strength is wasting what strength God has provided.
To wrap this up (after all, I really DO need to start outlining the elements of assault and battery…!!!), I’d have to say that I’ve finally found my niche. And it is at the corner table near a window on the third floor of the law library with my laptop, apple, Poptarts, 2 liter bottle of water, and books.