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How Long

We all poured out of the dark room gasping and nearly exhausted. “What happened?!” my brother asked. “You guys were in there for only like 10 seconds!” Once upon a time, when I turned 21, my friends went to a laser tag venue to celebrate my birthday. Although my brother drove, he wasn’t personally invested in going inside the laser tag course. “I’ll wait out here.” The rest of us suited up and donned light up vests and awkward backpack type apparatuses. We divided into teams and were given our objectives. We had to run, duck and dodge, with heavy equipment, while avoiding our “enemies’” attacks. All in all, our adventure only lasted a few minutes. But the intricacies of our daunting combat and physical exertion made us feel like we were in there for ages during the “battle.” My brother, on the other hand, experienced his time outside as just a few short minutes.

Many things influence our perception of the passage of time. We generally feel that time passes much more quickly as we age. Compare a small child incessantly asking “are we there yet?” on a short road trip, vs. an adult feeling proud about having made a particularly lengthy journey “in no time.” We also tend to feel that enjoyable experiences speed along. Time flies when you’re having fun, while challenging tasks seem to be unending. Although the laser tag game was definitely enjoyable, it was complex and required mental and physical work. As compared to someone leisurely sitting around, our time seemed to move more slowly.

I actually think about the relativity of time perception quite often. When we think of the tragedies of this world the soonness of Christ’s return can’t come soon enough. I think of it when I hear about: Tyre Nichols’s murder, and George Floyd’s murder before that, and Breonna Taylor’s murder before that, and Ahmad Arbery’s murder before that, and Botham Jean’s murder, and Tamir Rice’s murder and John Crawford III’s murder and Trayvon Martin’s murder and the 4 schoolgirls’ murder in Birmingham and Emitt Till’s murder and the countless other Black lives that have been senselessly taken. And I lament: “How long?” I’m certain that for Someone eternal, these arduous decades are truly the “blink of an eye.” But for me it’s mentally and physically draining. It is a challenging battle.  “How long?”

I don’t have an answer to that. No one knows the day or the hour. I don’t have a nice neat resolution but to say: “Even so come Lord Jesus.”

And while we recognize how fleeting life can be, it also should motivate us to cherish it. To honor the beauty of lives lived. We ought to find joy in celebrating the living. This February, I choose not to only mourn loss but to celebrate Black joy. I invite this entire church to acknowledge the value of Black lives lost, Black lives being lived, and the particular longing for liberation felt by Black people as well as our shared hope that soon is soon.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD, is an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and a clinical neuropsychologist. She is president of the Society for Black Neuropsychology. 

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found by clicking here.

Photo by MyotusCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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