Never Run Alone: Why You Need a Partner
You will never walk alone!
Easier said than done, right? Liverpool fans know this better than most of us–especially following their recent thrashing by Man City. Let’s not go into the painful post-match analysis here, shall we? My only humble submission is that what these dethroned champions faced was akin to the fate of the dog that ate the poor man’s cooking fat! Singing that loyalty anthem must be painful for fans, as they retreat into the woodwork for some reflection! So much about dogs, fat and frazzled fans. Away from soccer, nothing captures the necessity of teamwork in sportsmanship than what Eliud Kipchoge and his elite team of 41 displayed in the INEOS challenge last year. While Eliud was certainly the man of the moment, that sweet victory we all celebrated was made possible by the enduring, faithful support of his friends and fellow athletes.
In a small way, I am seeing this principle at work in the bigger race of life and faith.
As I dragged my sleep-drunk carcass from the bed a few days ago (the Good Book says we are dead to sin, after all), my sweet dear wife Cate dared me to recite Hebrews 12:11. Was she being cheeky? The verse in question is one of those we are practicing as part of a Consistent Bible Reading (CBR) Course Cate and I are re-taking, after backsliding 9 years ago! It says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
How discerning and spot on my wife was, I thought. But I was not in a very philanthropic mood. In fact, I felt tempted to faithfully emulate our Lord Jesus, by doing as he did during his hour of temptation: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!” But suddenly I remembered that my wife was not the devil, I was not Jesus, and the setting was the most hallowed place in our house, not the Judean wilderness! So, with great determination and brotherly kindness, I decided kupambana na hali yangu. I shuffled out of the bedroom to seek the face of the Lord in the quiet of the sitting room, albeit with the wiggling and whimpering product of our love saddled on my chest for my round of babysitting! Such was my unhappy lot.
Now, Cate is not the patron saint of perfection, but she gets many things right–like she did on that morning. Sometimes, I can be the stubborn, snoozing, huffing and puffing type that needs some tough love to get my hooves and horns into the game. Even more crucially, when I think about the bigger race of life, which Jesus, our pioneer and ultimate pacesetter, has marked out before us (Heb. 12:1-2), I cannot help but affirm the crucial role of such an accountability partner. Cate and a host of other dear friends have been such over the years. The daily Bible Reading exercises are helping me appreciate Paul’s use of ‘race’ as a metaphor for the life of faith, with its requisite discipleship demands. Despite the accomplishments he had made in his life and ministry, Paul demonstrates a serious commitment to the priority of spiritual discipline. Firstly, by the example of his own life, he testified, “Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my own body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9:26-27). Secondly, Paul commended the practice of accountable pursuit of training for godliness, as we see in his exhortation to his mentee Timothy: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith and love and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). This principle is also applied to the context of the corporate life of the community of faith as a “pattern” of life that is centered on the cross of Christ. And Paul modeled it to those he served (Phil. 3:17ff.).
When I look in the side-mirror of my life, I see individuals that God has used to keep me in line. People like Elly Ochieng, mentor, family friend, and former team-leader, who challenged me to lick my wounds and move on, after burning my fingers in a clumsy love experiment in KU. This is a story for another day! People like Tony Maina, with whom we had numerous sleepovers in my bachelor’s pad in Skuta, Nyeri, discussing scripture, listening to audio sermons on purity, and praying together for our future wives, as we ‘ministered’ to chapatti manufactured in my tiny kitchen. And I think of Pst. Peter Oyugi and David Garratt, two great men who challenged me to “soldier on,” dig my heels in and “see to it that you finish the work you have received in the Lord.” That was in 2008, during a year with Careforce–UK, when I was so discouraged, so depressed, and so wanted out!
If, there was a time to strengthen this department of your life, it is now. Although this is a season pregnant with potential for spiritual growth and personal development, it could also turn out to be the greatest scandal of your lifetime! Yes. Many previous discipleship commitments might be abandoned; great books that ought to have been read or written might get replaced by useless little ‘projects’; innovations that ought to have been birthed and nurtured to life might get aborted through procrastination or the sheer lack of disciplined and focused effort; opportunities to develop important life and specialty skills may get washed down with cheap coffee and popcorn in binge-watching of mind-numbing movies! In the end, people of great potential might be turned into glazed-eyed zombies, doing little else beyond shifting in the sofa, and growing another curve around their waists. Please, let Mutahi Kagwe concentrate on flattening the curve that really matters at this time!
So, will you sit there and squander a great season?
Get yourself a real jogging partner.