Sakata Time: Put your Faith Foot Forward
By Fr Ben Didacus Opiyo
Sakata Mashariki – a popular entertainment dance competition by youth from East Africa — had numerous youth glued to their TV sets, many of them wishing they could participate in it.
If ever the famous saying, “Put your best foot forward,” was to be applied, it would fit this TV show that aired 8PM every Sunday on Citizen TV. The dancing teams had to put their best feet forward if they ever hoped to win.
Over time I have come to equate life with a dance. A dance in which if you hope to win, you must not only put your best foot, but most importantly, your faith foot forward.
“There must be more to life than this,” was the constant thought in the mind of a young boy, let us call him Charles, in the year 2000. His father passed on while he was in primary school. His education progress was disrupted and all his elder siblings dropped out of school.
When he sat for his secondary school entry exam (KCPE) he emerged top of his class. A well wisher offered to pay his school fees, unfortunately, the person passed on while he was midway through his secondary school. No one else came forth to assist.
His fee arrears became so astronomical that the principal was forced to send him home from time to time and he ended up spending more time at home than in school.
Meanwhile, some of his closest relatives had long decided not to pitch in, insinuating that Charles and his siblings perhaps were not really their relatives. Their mother was not from their community.
Amidst all these, his dominant conviction was that there was more to life than misery. Charles developed a habit of spending the first few minutes of his waking time in prayers, repeatedly asking for that more, that life had on offer.
He launched himself into serious studies. He had to keep this going even while at home. In school, he had inadequate personal effects for boarding school, no meal card to him get food from the dining hall. A friend came to his aid and accepted to share meals. At night, they took shifts in sleeping on the same bed.
Charles passed, joined the university, successfully graduated, and has since inspired his younger sibling to take this dance of faith.
Someone once said that whatever you get out of life is directly proportional to the degree of your faith, and that faith, is the key to the door of blessings. My quest is to learn how to make this a conscious habit in my life and teach it to others, so that our dance of life may have abundance. Jesus himself declared, I have come so that they have life and life to the full (Jn.10:10). How do we teach this?
Oh woman, great is your faith!
As a priest and mentor, there are two books that I recommend as minimum, for those who may not have time to read extensively. The first is the Bible and the second, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen R. Covey.
In the Bible, we have the example of the Canaanite woman (Mat. 15:21-28) who put her faith foot forward in her desire to have her daughter healed. Before she got what she wanted, just like my friend Charles, she had to grapple and deal with situations that required nimble feet of faith. I picked out four things:
Loud silence: The woman’s first attempt was met with great silence (Mat. 15: 23). Many young people are withering in the midst of deafening silence in the moments of their need. Charles, just like this woman had to endure seemingly unresponsive silence. Jesus never answered her request and on the other hand, Charles’s relatives kept quiet. Put your faith foot forward with words like, “Even in this silence, I am in God’s plans for he has said… ‘For I know very well the plans l have for you (Jer.29:11).’ I need sometimes to be still and let Him do his fight behind the scene (Ex. 14:13-14).”
Snubbing crowd: Many young people have experienced painful, direct, confidence-draining and sometimes spiteful rejection from their peers, teachers, adults, and even parents. The disciples advised Jesus to send the woman away (Mat.15:23b) while my friend Charles was also abandoned. Neither the woman nor Charles gave up. Rejection by the crowd is not divine rejection. Listen to the voice of your dance partner, God Himself, who reminds us that he will never forsake us. (Cf. Isaiah 42:16, Psalm 94:14, Deuteronomy 31:8)
You are not even a big dog! Some version of the Bible has it that Jesus told the woman, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Mat.15:26) Without attempting to go into Biblical exegesis, isn’t this like telling somebody that this is not your league? This is way above your standard! And even worse, you are not even a big dog, shoo!
How do you deal with that? The woman was not daunted by all these, she soldiered on and pointed at the reality of dogs feasting under the table and so drew the response; “Oh woman, great is your faith!” Her daughter was healed and she joined the league of the blessed.
It takes time: Have you ever wondered how long the woman had to walk and call after Jesus? The Bible gives neither the distance, nor the timeline. The dance of faith often times does not yield instant result. Sometimes the journey is long, tortuous, tiresome and even embarrassing. The woman kept calling, she was met with loud silence, she heard Jesus being told to send her away and she was reminded that she is an outsider! What about my friend Charles? The best ever winning style is that performed figuratively on your knees.
Getting to the big league: I am sure, those teams that participated in the Sakata dance competition dreamt many times of fame and fortune, that comes with joining the big league.
Putting our faith foot forward in the dance of life is the sure first step to the big league of life. For this to happen, we must learn to feed our faith daily by listening to God our lead dance partner, become bold and specific on what we desire, use our faith to walk past rejections and most importantly, be on the lookout for the window of grace.
The woman did not take offense at the term ‘little dog,’ but used it to point at them eating scraps. My friend Charles, almost literally lived on scraps! Scraps of food, fees, sleep, clothes, even love! Your faith will help you not to despise where you are, recognize it as an opportunity to catapult yourself to the big table. Where faith abounds, little things have a habit of multiplying. Use your faith to pry open that window open, for life is a dance, and to win, you must put your faith foot forward.
Fr Ben Didacus Opiyo is the rector St Gabriel Seminary in the Archdiocese of Kisumu