I’m sitting in a London hotel room having had a nice Lodon sleep after a nice London dinner. I am out of my skin excited about going home and seeing my family – I literally can’t wait.
But there is a huge part of me that wants to turn around and go back to Uganda.
This is not something I could have predicted. Then again the whole trip was thoroughly unpredictable. I didn’t think I’d spend the whole time in and around Kampala, I had never heard of that hospital I discovered, and I never guessed I’d be playing balloons with kids and parents in a horrifying cancer ward.
But I want to go back. I mean I want to go home. I so want to go home. But I don’t want to be back in Western culture. I don’t want to be back in this place where there is so much of everything that we really can make God optional.
Within 200 steps of this quiet little hotel where I am staying there are at least four bakeries, six restaurants, two pharmacies, one real estate office, and on and on and on. Suddenly newspapers are everywhere with their sensational – and frankly mostly meaningless – headlines. Suddenly, with Internet access back to ‘normal’ I can tour the news much more quickly and read blogs much more easily. But there is so little I can bear to read. I’m supposed to be finishing up an oped on evangelicals in politics for the Washington Post and I am struggling to write anything. I know this is just called culture shock. I know it will fade.
But I don’t want it to fade.
When I left Uganda yesterday, a thought hit me. For the days that I was there I was living a life that was really, truly worth living. Or perhaps I should say I was living a life that I think honored God. Serving others and helping others is that kind of life.
I know, I know that that doesn’t have to end in Uganda. I don’t have to head back home and lose all of that spirit. I know that a life that honors God doesn’t just happen in Kampala’s slums.
But I don’t want to be back in this world of temptations… temptations to be majorly focused on minor things, temptations to fill my time and my life and my mind with idle things, temptations to lose the reality of God in the middle of our tidal wave of plenty.
I haven’t watched LOST for a few weeks now – and am not particularly interested in seeing it again (though I know that will change very quickly). The last episode I saw was the first one; the one that showed Hurley back in a mental institution.
I wonder if the whole point of the show is far less than we imagine it to be. I wonder if the greatest point of the show is simply this – when stripped of their goods and their comforts, this group of people come alive. When they have nothing they find everything. I wonder if the whole point of the show is simply that – they think they are lost but more than anything they are finding themselves. All of the other stuff – the crazy visions and weird people and bizarre happenings just provide for interesting context.
And I think – and I know I am probably completely off on all of this stuff – that perhaps the reason some want to go back is because they want to live again. Either that or it is really Atlantis or the eternal home of the Easter bunny.
While there I finished the book on Bono. In the mid-80s we went to Ethiopia with his wife Ali to work in the camps where the starving and dying came to find food. Of their return to Europe from the time in the camps he said:
“I remember Ali and myself flying back from Africa the first time. And the first few days in Europe again, it was culture shock. We had a lot more difficulty reentering than we had landing in Africa, and figuring that out. We said to each other, ‘We’ll never forget what we’ve been through.’ But we did. We got on with our lives. When we said grace at the dinner tables, we said it a little stronger. We meant it. Food tasted a little more. But you just get on with your life, and you slowly find a place to put Africa, this beautiful, shining continent with all its ups and downs. Occasionally, you’d take it out, you’d look at it again, and then you’d put it back in that safer place called distance and time.”
Of course Bono has taken Africa down off of that shelf and he is living for Africa more than ever before.
I just hope and pray that I won’t forget… that might be a lot easier to do in Uganda.