One of my favorite stories in the Christian tradition is that of a young man named Joseph. Mostly because we share a lot of similarities. Like me, he was insanely handsome, witty, and had to deal with a lot of shit life threw at him. Where we differ is in our special talents. Mine, being able to down shots of Jamison effortlessly at happy hour. Joseph, a little more respectable, in his ability to interpret dreams. Through the ups and down, though, we both always stayed grounded, believing God would make a way just like my cousin Viktor always tells me, “Thank God for closed doors.”
Long story short, Joseph was given this vision for his life as a child that looked like at times would be impossible for him to achieve. He was sold into slavery, made a name for his self, got his glow up, only to be thrown back into prison on false charges. But through it all Joseph continued to trust in God that he was destined for something special. The situations that seemed most likely to deliver Joseph’s downfall were actually setting him up for something even greater. “Thank God for closed doors.”
One of my favorite documentaries of 2019 is Quincy. Have you seen it? If you haven’t, highly recommended. It narrates the life of legendary, music-icon Quincy Jones. When Quincy wasn’t dating supermodels, he was casually dropping #1 hits with all-time greats like Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. In addition to his insane work ethic, there was one moment that stood out to me the most in his documentary that I was reminded of last night as I awoke from one of the most vivid dreams of my life. And no, not that kind of dream.
Quincy talked a lot about how he always keeps a pen and paper next to his bed because you never know when God will come and speak to you. He accredits a lot of his success to times God would come to him with an idea in the middle of the night. He made a point to mention how he felt if he wasn’t ready, God would take the idea down the street to his neighbors. He lived in Beverly Hills so I can see why he was so anxious about that.
Kenya is a little different than California, but I could hear Quincy’s voice in my head, “get yo ass up,” as I contemplated drifting back to sleep last night. Mind you, this is the first time I’ve had a dream in years. Most nights, sleeping for me is just an extended nap. Days running in to each other, not really sure where one stopped and the other started. But there is something about the stillness of Nairobi that has allowed me to rest easy under the veil of the mosquito net surrounding my bed.
The location in my dream felt oddly familiar, even though I had never been there before. I was in a city surrounded by people living their day-to-day lives, as was I. When all of a sudden, a wave began to flood the city. Oddly, everyone covered by the water didn’t drown but rather froze in time.
All I kept thinking was to run as fast as I could so I didn’t freeze too, unrepentant about who I pushed out the way or left behind. As I ran through the streets, people would scream out at me, “Hey watch it!” They began to chase me in anger. When I finally reached what appeared to be my destination, there was a mob ready to give me their two cents when a tiny monkey began playing the drums and everybody was happy. Yeah, shit got weird. In the end we all kumbayaed and made up. Where’s Joseph when you need him.
Fast forward, I wake up drenched in sweat because its 85 degrees in my room. My first thought, MAN THAT MONKEY HAD RHYTHM. Second thought, QUINCY JONES telling me to write my dream down. So I reached through the mosquito net, risking it all to grab my notebook off the nightstand, and I wrote verbatim:
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
It is about the person that is under the cover at night. Not about any of the other stuff. Who you claim to be. Who you want the world to perceive you as. The person that at 4 o’clock in the morning under the cover surrounded by the mosquito net. The most vulnerable version of yourself.
Dream - There was a wave coming over the world and everyone would freeze except me. Last one was I was rude to someone trying to move so fast and I pushed them or something and then another person I did. A similar thing. They followed me and in the end they understood I was being rude because I did not want to miss a boat before the wave came, it left, where I had to deliver my monkey so he could play his tiny drum. I was so fixated on what I wanted that I was not worries about anybody else. Although my intentions were pure, it was the pace at which I was going, not really thinking about others along the journey that made everyone upset. In the end they appreciated my hustle when I took back the veil and showed them what it was all for.
I am not writing this because I want to share the weird dreams I have after not sleeping for three days adjusting to being 7 hours ahead of the east coast. No, I’m hoping that in some small way my monkey story can be something we all relate to in our daily lives.
As I moseyed around the hostile yesterday pre-dream, I asked the Kenyan woman who manages the place what I should do with my day - fully expecting her to tell me to head out into the city, go on Safari, or maybe hit the beach. To my surprise, she told me to go sit on the balcony, relax, maybe do some thinking, and when it cooled down to walk over to the market to get some food.
Man, if life was always this simple.
Unlike Joseph and Quincy, God didn’t provide me with the prolific ability to interpret dreams so he has to keep it pretty literal for me. The best interpretation I could gather as I laid up last night, salivating over the victory of another mosquito freshly smashed between my palms, was that somewhere along the line I got it wrong.
Since I was young, all I have ever done is run, run, run, often ignoring the present moments that exist all around me. Call it the effects of capitalism or maybe it has something to do with feeling the mortality of my father dying, who knows. But somehow, I was never was conditioned to focus on the here and now. I have always found myself longing for the future. And I am sure I’m not alone in this way of thinking.
What are we supposed to be doing? Where is the next mountain to climb? Who are we going to be 10 years from now? Too often in this way of thinking, we ignore that all there is and all there will ever be is the here and now. No past, no future, simply the present.
In the calmness of Nairobi, I have found the importance of learning to be still. Much easier to do in a place like this over Washington or New York. But my hope would be that in some way, in our own lives we can take a small piece of Nairobi with us by learning to slow down a bit.
Ironically, my Daily Devotion yesterday - September 19, 2019
RESTING IN THE LORD
On this day, atonement will be made for you, and you will be cleansed from all your sins in the LORDS’s presence. It will be a Sabbath day of total rest, and you will spend the day in fasting.
- Leviticus 16:30-31
Lord, lead my sprit in the exercise of rest today. I feel a bit anxious, and my mind keeps visiting all of the tasks I have to do. But I long to rediscover the practice of the Sabbath. The world teaches me that I will fall behind or lose my place if I take time to just “be.” But You call me to take time out for renewal. May I use my determination to schedule my days to serve the purpose of the Sabbath. Lead me to be diligent in this discipline. I pray that I will learn to rest in you.