I was transported back to a different place and time tonight.
I remember it so well. It was a week before Christmas. Although it was nearly 10pm, I was sweating bullets. That orange clay dirt stuck to my feet, covered only on the bottoms my flip-flops. As I walked across where the tarmac would have been, were there to have been a tarmac, I did my best to soak every ounce of that moment in. I was leaving Uganda just like I had found it, under the cover of darkness.
As I climbed the jet way stairs, up and onto the plane I couldn’t quite make out the noise coming from inside. I walked through the door of that KLM aircraft like I was making a lunar landing. That noise I heard was Mariah belting out Christmas melodies. The air conditioner was on full blast. In December. The very Dutch and consequently very blond flight attendants were quick to offer beverages and newspapers, warm damp wash cloths, and those weird not quite slipper not quite sock foot coverings.
I was paralyzed. In that moment in which two realities were colliding in an epic war of the worlds I had only one thought: “don’t touch anything, you’ll get it dirty”.
What I didn’t realize was that in my short time living in Uganda, though I came and left under the cover of darkness, was that the lights had been turned on. And I would spend much of the next four years trying to turn them off again.
You can never un-see images. Nor un-hear stories. It’s beyond the realm of possibility to un-think thoughts nor is it any more possible to undo what is done by the crisis of illumination.
How life can change over the course of four years.
This afternoon the power went out. A number of storms have moved in and out of the area in the last few days so it didn’t exactly come by surprise. What did come by surprise, however, was the sacredness brought by what most in the developed world consider an inconvenience, and what those in the less developed world consider, well, nighttime.
It felt so appropriate to read Luke’s account of the birth of Christ by the light of a fire. And how appropriate that on the eve of the day that so many celebrate the arrival of the Christ I wait in darkness. Advent is just that: a season of waiting. And life as we now know it is just that: a season of waiting. And so often it feels as though we’re waiting in complete darkness.
A few moments ago the power came back on. But I promptly turned out the lights and returned to the fire. I think I’ve found a new Christmas Eve tradition.