November 29, 2015 (Kampala):
Yesterday morning we stuck around the Baptist Mission and didn’t do much. Then we went to Little Donkey for lunch. From there I walked to Kololo Airstrip to see Pope Francis for my ‘spiritual pilgrimage’ into Kampala. As it turned out, I did get to see the Pope, but a couple of surprises awaited me:
After getting through security, I wandered around and eventually stopped to stand and wait under a huge tent near the stage. There were thousands of people there, but the number of light-skinned foreigners like me could probably have been counted on ten fingers or less. I sat down because my legs were tired. People stared at me, and I stared back at them. My eye caught a particular woman to my left who kept looking at me, not in a rude way, just passively curious. She was beautiful, that I noticed. And even though there were many attractive women around, this one in particular got fixed in my attention. For the next hour and a half, I was highly aware of her.
I started thinking of how I could talk to her, and I started mentally processing the implications: What would she think? What would other people think? What is my intention? Would it be wrong? Unfaithful? The longer this went on, the stronger the desire grew to approach this woman. Then, all of a sudden, a short Chinese man came up from behind and started talking to me…I found myself irritated because I wanted to be talking to the woman, not some random dude! We chatted for a few minutes, and then he left.
After a nice long wait, Pope Francis finally appeared, riding in an open vehicle (shielded with bullet-proof glass) and waving to the throngs of people. I and thousands of others pushed and leaned and pressed against each other to get close enough to see and snap some pictures. I was able to get some footage by standing on my tip-toes and lifting my arms all the way up. We were all getting jostled, bumped, and pushed, but I thought nothing of it…
The woman was still in the forefront of my mind. I had lost her in the push to see Francis, and now I set about relocating her. I made my way back to where I had been under the tent, hoping she would be there too. After a few minutes, she reappeared. There was a lull in activity as the Pope was getting situated for his speech. I worked up the courage and decided I would go talk to this strange woman who by now had exerted such mysterious force over me. I knew I would look very conspicuous to all the people around if I just walked up to her, so I looped back behind the crowd a bit and then walked up behind her and squatted down beside her. I asked her if she had got to see the Pope. She seemed taken aback that I was there, so close; her mouth quivered as she replied that she hadn’t seen him. To console her for missing the Pope, I showed her the videos I had recorded of his procession. I could feel a hundred pairs of eyes burning into me from behind, and I broke out in cold sweat. But I didn’t care. I had wanted to talk with this gorgeous human, and now I was.
While talking with her, I mentioned my wife and showed her some photos of my girls. She said she was from Rwanda. I went from squatting to sitting cross-legged on the ground. I was just about to inquire more about her when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was Juli [an expat acquaintance]. This was another shock since I didn’t expect to know anyone else in that crowd. Instinctively, I stood up and gave her an awkward hug and chatted a bit with her while standing there. Also instinctively, I felt it would be more socially acceptable to be seen with her than with the Rwandan woman. Perhaps too, I thought, Juli had been providentially sent to rescue me from whatever sticky situation I was getting myself into. So I turned, shook the Rwandan woman’s hand, said “God bless you”, and went with Juli to listen to the Pope’s speech.
After the speech, which we couldn’t even hear, I left and soon realized to my dismay that my wallet had been stolen. There were so many opportunities for it to have happened, I can only speculate. I lost two credit cards, two driver’s licenses, 22,000 shillings, and a bunch of business cards. I texted Amber before getting on a boda-boda and asked her to cancel the credit cards.
So what happened? This Rwandan woman captivated my attention when I should’ve been attending to my potentially hostile environment. I was a very soft target at that point, and I should’ve known better!
Why did I want to talk to her? It wasn’t to seduce her. I knew full well that I wasn’t going to have sex with her, and I had no intention of the sort. It’s true: she was attractive, but it couldn’t have been only that because many others were also. It couldn’t have been that she looked askance at me several times because many others did too – men and women, boys and girls. I did, however, notice that she was alone. No one was with her, no one talked to her. And I was alone too. I felt lonely. After the funny Chinese man left me, I felt like I wished I had someone to share the experience with. But why this woman?
Secondly, I can honestly say that my intentions were innocent. Despite my nearly irrepressible desire to talk to her, I fully intended to speak words of kindness to her, things about God, Jesus, the spiritual life – words a married Christian man could justifiably say to a young woman he was attracted to. While I considered that, I asked myself whether it was the Holy Spirit urging me to talk to her, to cheer or encourage a lonely and discouraged person? Or was it the Devil jumping through my spiritual armor to exploit a weakness in my flesh, to jump-start a potential affair? Though I had absolutely no intention of being unfaithful to my wife, the move I made out of innocent intentions could have started me down a slippery slope, and that is probably how most affairs start anyway – innocently. Or not?
All I can say is that I had a strong and increasing want to talk to this woman; it was spiritual, either of God or Satan. And in the end, I obeyed the impulse.
Was I obeying God or giving into demonic temptation?
It’s intriguing that both the Chinese man and Juli seemed to have been sent to me to distract me from my preoccupation. What does it all mean?
The truth is, I like pretty girls and beautiful women. I always have. I’ve always enjoyed being in their company, enveloped in their energy…I’ve related to hundreds of attractive females in my lifetime and have only ever been sexual with one – my wife. Therefore, wanting to talk to the Rwandan woman was not wrong in and of itself. My intentions were innocent.
But what remains to be explained is the sheer power of the desire, its spiritual quality, as well as the timing of events and human actors in its unfolding. Why then? After a beautiful marital encounter only hours before, why would Satan be so bent on attacking me, tempting me to be unfaithful (if indeed that was what it was)? If it wasn’t the Devil tempting me to infidelity, then it was the Holy Spirit. But if it was Him, what does the seemingly strategic appearance of Juli mean, as well as the disastrous theft of my wallet as what would appear to be a consequence of the whole fiasco? It seems like Juli provided me with a way out of my situation, and it seems the stolen wallet is my smack on the hand to teach me a lesson (for letting my guard down). Yes, based on how I was raised, that seems to make the most sense.
However, there is a larger issue at play here: the Universal Feminine (to use Chardin’s phrase), taking the form of an African woman, has exercised great power over me before, several times. Honestly, there are few times in my life when I’ve felt a spiritual pull more powerful than in these times. It feels like “love,” as in that indifferent and irresistible force that drives evolution forward by magnetizing polar opposites to each other. But as a monogamous man, I’ve had to respond to that pull with another kind of “love,” the love of commitment, of remaining faithful to a marriage and family unit that at first was put together by “magnetic love”, even if the magnetism itself has lessened with time and familiarity. Giving into new occurrences of “magnetic love”, which would be oh so easy, may lead to the destruction of “commitment love,” the dissolution of life-giving relational structures already in place.
So how could it be good?
And yet, here is a haunting question:
God created the magnetic love to produce life, so why must we resist it?