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?