I Will Give You the Treasures of Darkness (Tanzania Part VII)

Posted on January 13, 2012

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Naribi at Night

Naribi at Night

My first experience of Nairobi was the evening ride from the Nairobi Airport to our hotel. My travel companion and I were exhausted after a day spent traveling; confined to our cramped airplane seats for twenty+ hours, waiting at security screenings and the boarding areas in Seattle, Amsterdam and Nairobi. While physically and mentally fatigued, another long slumbering part of me seemed to quicken and come to life, as I described in Part VI.

The heat of the day had dissipated only slightly, so I relished leaning my head out my open window. Catching even a warm humid breeze was a welcome relief from the stagnant air of the Nairobi airport. Our driver Muhammad engaged us in conversation, telling us about the Nairobi National Park and other notable items as we passed by them, as he deftly navigated his way through a challenging obstacle of people, cars, motorcycles, pot holes, bumps and debris in the road. I marveled as he seemed to know every crack, dip, or bump in the road, slowing for them well in advance. I imagined that he had driven this route many times before.

Though it was evening, the streets were packed with vehicles and crowded with people traveling to who-knows-where. There always seemed to be a constant tension between the right away of people seeking to cross the street and the myriad of different motorized vehicles speeding to their destinations. Which would yield to which? Throughout my trip, I was constantly amazed at the number of people, walking, bicycling, driving, pushing carts, on motorcycles, but always in motion and going places. It never seemed to matter if it was at first light in the morning or well into the evening; whether you were in town or out in the boonies. The one constant seemed to be the profusion of people moving from place to place.

Nairobi was no different. The tension was ever in play. Traveling from one place to another, even as a passenger seemed to require a heightened sense of awareness combined with a growing tightness in your stomach. There were so many things in motion, each requiring your active attention that you could not allow yourself to become detached. In America, you could travel several blocks and have it dawn on you that you don’t recall how you got to where you did. It was as if, you were traveling on automatic pilot. You knew your point of origin and your destination, so somehow you arrived there, but upon reflection on how you got there, you do so without a full recollection of the streets in between the two points.

Life can pass us by like that, if we are not vigilant. We have very distinct memories of graduating high school or college and we know that we are here today, but the details of the year’s in-between can seem to blur together. For me, I can recall the distinctive feelings after making the decision to follow Jesus. At that time I was bartending in Post Alley downtown Seattle at a hopping joint called Tlaquepaque’s e and living that lifestyle to its fullest. I had just had a daughter the year before and I recall one very sobering instant when I felt God stop me in my tracks. The impression was something to the effect that it was one thing to throw my own life away, that was my choice, but my daughter did not make the same choice and deserved better.

I quit my job, packed up my car and toured the western half of the United States for a couple of months, to clear out my head. It was another defining milestone in my life, as after that, I committed to following Christ. I have very vivid memories of the amazing experiences and feelings that I had during the next few years and how alive I felt. Somehow over the years, I slipped into autopilot and allowed myself to be lulled back to sleep. The details of the last 5-6 years have blurred together and I can’t recall exactly how it happened or how I managed to find myself back sleep walking through life.

Somehow being there in Nairobi, Kenya, the switch had been changed back. I was waking up and beginning to feel like I did when God originally woke me up so many years ago. My senses which had grown calloused and numb were functioning again and like driving those streets of Nairobi, I was suddenly ever vigilant. I watched as the traffic slowed down and people pressed forward into the streets, forcing vehicles to swerve, accelerate out-of-the-way or requiring them to jam on the brakes and stop only inches from them.

I watched in amazement as our driver seemed to literally press through the throngs of people carving out a path for the car, like a warm knife cutting through butter. Were they fully awake or just going through the motions, already numbed due to years of poverty and injustice? I asked Muhammad about his driving prowess and what it took to actually get places in Nairobi. He told me that it took confidence. If a driver lacked confidence, he would never get anywhere in this city. You needed to just keep moving forward, trusting that the people and other vehicles would respond appropriately.

If we can open our eyes and our ears, there is wisdom to be found in life. Yes, even in a thirty minute ride from the Nairobi Airport to your hotel. To get places in life; to keep moving forward, we need the very same thing that driver needed. We need confidence…confidence in our gifting and abilities, as well as in God. If we lack confidence in ourselves and God, then we will never make progress towards our goals. It’s another life lesson, a nugget of truth found in the act of living life fully alive.

In silence contemplation, we passed a long section of the Nairobi National Park and entered into the thick dusty smog which seemed to linger thick over the city of Nairobi. What few lights there were, shone meekly through the haze and vanished quickly when you passed beyond thirty yards or so from them. I thought about how this confidence (in self and God) had been shaken at some point in my life and how it had lingered and the doubts grew for many years. I wondered how different life would be going forward, if I could keep this renewed confidence and alertness present in my life.

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