Thursday, 19 July 2012

A Better Mirror

Perhaps a more vulnerable post,
but I doubt that I should get anywhere nor help anyone else get anywhere real in life
by hiding things, experiences and emotions that I'm sure are not solely unique to myself,
behind the mask of expectation and reputation.

And so for a moment I will hang my heart out on the line
and I will say to the woman outside my guesthouse window in Kampala, Uganda,
I'm sorry.


"Give me my bag, I'll show you what I can do."
These were the words repeated multiple times
from the lot in front of the guest house I stayed in for one night in Kampala.
These were the words which woke me from my sleep
at about 1:30 am.
They came from a young woman just outside my room.
And, as I quietly pulled the mosquito net from the bed, stood up,
and slightly peeled back the window curtains,
I could see that her words were addressed to three or four men standing in front of her.

I didn't know the whole context of the situation.
I couldn't hear what the men would say to her.
Only her words, that phrase in Ugandan English;
"Give me my bag, I'll show you what I can do",
followed by some sort of explanation
about how she had only wanted to help a friend who was out late at night.

I was afraid for this woman.
I was afraid for her, knowing of what has been done,
and what could be done to someone
in the late hours of the night.
For her to lose her bag was one thing,
but how much worse these men could be capable of doing.
I wished I knew fully what was going on.
And I found myself thinking "I cannot allow anything to happen to this woman."
With trepidation near by my side
I put on a pair of jeans, my shoes and then listened again,
trying to understand what was happening.

After a number of minutes passed,
its almost impossible to count how many in such a circumstance,
my friend awoke from the bed across the room from mine.
He asked me what I was doing up.
"Something is happening out there." I told him.
"There are thieves robbing that woman, did you hear her asking for her bag?" he responded.
I don't know if he was right, he knew the context only as well as I;
but I do know that when he said these words my worry increased
as if my fears were being confirmed
and the door of possibility for the worst to happen was being propped open.

I moved the curtain aside again and looked outside.
I saw the men around her, moving her across the lot
and then behind a car where I could not see them anymore.
And I felt my heartbeat quicken,
As I heard her begin to cry. 
"What will happen to her?" I asked my friend.
"Don't worry." My friend responded. "Those are problems for the outside, we are safe inside."
I told him "I'm not worried about myself, I'm worried about her."
Though in honesty I was afraid for myself as well.
Why else would I have so quietly climbed out of bed,
and just barely pulled back the curtain.
"What will happen to her?"
"Don't worry. Those are problems for the outside. Go back to sleep."

As I looked outside the only person I could see was a man at the guesthouse entrance
watching, perhaps also wondering what was going on.
I tried to take comfort in thinking that he didn't seem to be involved,
and if anything too serious was happening he would do something,
call authorities, intervene...something.
But I could not convince myself that he really would,
I could not convince myself past the sobs of this woman.

I wanted to do something.
I imagined an equipping of power and courage
coming over me to help this woman.
A situation that young boys imagine again and again,
placing themselves in the position of the hero
rescuing the distressed from the vice grip of harm.

But what do you do
when the hero you once thought would race into danger
now cannot even seem to outrun the pulsing of his own heart?

What do you do
when all the boyhood notions
of the heroism which dwells inside you, 
with all its pounding drums and trumpet calls,
cannot overcome the noise of that very heart
now heavily beating in your chest
with fear and uncertainty.

And you wonder where all the courageous ability
to sacrifice yourself for another,
that you once thought you would have in times like these,
was now hiding itself.

I sat on the edge of my bed,
hunched over, interlocked my fingers and closed my eyes.
From across the room came my friend's voice, "What are you doing?"
"I'm praying John."

And that was all I could find myself able to do.
Ask for the woman's safety out there
while I held onto my own in here
behind the barred window and the padlocked door.

Now, talking with others, they agreed with my friend John that it was best to stay inside.
For reasons of security and safety,
it was the wise choice.
While going out there would likely have been a foolish and unnecessary risk.

But isn't it sometimes the foolish things of the world
which are chosen to put the wise to shame?

 I do not know and will likely never know while on this earth
what "Problems for the outside" really occurred while I listened
from the inside of the window.
It may have been nothing. But I just wasn't able to tell.
It may have been something. But I just don't know for sure.
It may have been everything. But how could I have known?

The sobs did eventually cease.
I could begin to hear louder voices of men talking,
and as I heard a woman laugh once,
I hoped with everything in me that is was her.
But I just don't know
and perhaps that is what haunts me the most. Not knowing.

I can justify my response, saying that she never called out for help,
and that I didn't know the full situation, nor the risk, 
and that it may have been a brash act which could have worsened the situation.
But even though I can justify my response,
I find myself unable to be satisfied with it.  

If anyone else were in the circumstance I would tell them to do what I did.
But I cannot convince myself that I should have the same role.
Because isn't it the love of my own safety
that I am placing over the safety of another in such a situation?
Because isn't it my life, which is eternally secure in Christ,
that I am placing over the life of someone who's heart
and eternal condition I do not know?

Is it love for myself and my own safety
that I choose to be the trump card by acting this way
after a hand of danger has been dealt?

I don't know.
I can only now trust.

And I have learned:

That the heart of a hero can quickly grow faint
in the uncertain hours of the dark night
when a stranger stands in shadows of danger
and courage seems to remain sleeping under the covers
as fearful eyes watch through the cracks in the window curtains.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry that I haven't read this in detail but
    keep praying
    there are multiple reasons
    could you have gone out?
    would you be stopped?
    could you be put in a situation that make you any less useful for god's work right now?
    we could keep praying for god's will.