The Perfect Bow

The Myth of Retirement. Part III

I love neat bows. They appeal to the perfectionist in me, everything appears to come together when a bow is neatly done. Also, to achieve a neat bow, usually the packaging is neatly done. It takes time, effort and precision to get it just right.

Credit: Pinterest

I learnt to tie a bow in nursery school, it was a coming of age milestone. No longer would I have to wait for an adult to do my shoe laces, I could them all by myself. How exciting this was! I quickly realized that the bow was simply a small part of the process. Some of my caretakers were not as careful with bows as I was and they simply did the bare minimum to ensure the shoe did not slip off my foot. I was horrified to find that the two ends of the bow were uneven, not once, not twice, but most of the time. That right there was not good. So my bow was always lopsided.

How did one go about correcting this. I observed how laces were put in the shoes and practiced, over and over till I got it. This was in the time when we all wore BATA and shoe laces were made out of cotton. Cotton has the amazing ability to do what it is expected. Nylon, polyester and all other forms synthetic fabrics do not always perform to par. So the bow is always lopsided.

As a young person, you are usually given a linear path expectation. You start off in Nursery, then join primary, secondary and later university and get a job. This path loops very perfectly like a neat bow till you get a job. Sometimes it doesn’t, you fail a major exam and cannot complete that section of school. Or you are too ill to attend regular school. Or maybe you lose a guardian or parent and you are unable to pay the school fees. Or you are not admitted to the school of your choice. Or you do not get the subjects of your choice. Whatever it is, the path is not linear. And so your bow is lopsided.

This same false hope is cultivated when you start work, a linear path. You find yourself in a holding pattern, waiting for the Control Tower to confirm that your plane may land. When I finish this set of qualifications, I shall leave this job. When I have this amount of money saved up, I shall retire. When I am done with this project, I shall embark on this and that. The holding pattern begins, because life is not linear. It’s all fine and dandy till you curve balls and bends are littered along your path. And so your bow shall be lopsided.

So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

John 19:30 NKJV

Jesus says this on the cross-one of his dying phrases. His redeeming work is complete and He dies. What a way to die, He even finished His work. And said last words. Such a neat bow. Only that three days later, He resurrects and on Ascension day gives His disciples instructions to make disciples of all the nations and take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

The laces are undone.

What just happened?’Didn’t He say it is finished?’ ‘Shouldn’t we be chilling in paradise with nojitos?‘ ‘Never ending sunsets?’ Apparently, not, Jesus is still working. We still have work to do. When your laces come undone, get on one knee, re-do the bow, get back to work.

The Gift of Work

The Myth of Retirement. Part III

Usually when facing a job interview panel, one of the questions you must prepare for is ‘Why would you like this job?’ Or it’s variant, ‘Why do you think you are the best candidate for this job?’ As the applicant you then draw from your experience, your competencies and your networks, to convince the panel that you can get the job done. Sometimes you get it right, other times you don’t.

God has placed within each one of us a unique purpose. This purpose is crafted into your DNA, woven into your genes before you knew you, before your mother knew you. You will remain insatiable until you find the work that God designed you for.

When God formed Adam from the dust and pulled Eve out of him, he gave him work. Adam’s work was to tend the Garden of Eden as part of fulfilling the Creation Mandate.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

The Creation Mandate, Genesis 1:27-28

Adam and Eve were never meant to live happily ever after in the Garden of Eden. Neither were you created to live in whatever variation of the Garden you imagine. You have been blessed with work so you can be a blessing to the world through your fruitfulness, multiplication and power to subdue. This is latent energy in you.

Since you are made in the likeness of God, your capabilities are immense. Forget your classification as a mammal, your ancestor Adam named all the mammals plus more animals besides. (Genesis 2:19-20). His sons designed the practices of agriculture. Abel without being taught by any priest brought the fat portions of the first born of his flock as a sacrifice to God. (Genesis 4:4). And on and on, till we get to you. Do you feel underwhelmed by the job interview panel yet? No?

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

I Corinthians 15:10 NKJV

Paul explains that he was able to labor more abundantly because of the grace of God. Labor is a synonym of work. Grace is unmerited favor. Unmerited means you don’t work for it. Yes. So how then can the grace of God lead to laboring more abundantly?

Man was created on the 6th day, the last day of creation. It meant that Adam’s first day of work was the Sabbath day. Wait, what? Yes, so on his first day at work, Adam was chilling with God. Compare that with your first day. The familiarization tour. The endless introductions. The numerous forms, IDs, passwords, thumb or retina scans. The new acronyms. The policy documents. Adam had none of that, he learned to work from rest. Rest with God. Rest in God. Unmerited. Who earns a day off on the first day? You, God’s favorite, do.

Dr. Eunice Adubango, shares a story about how she started Eunie’s kitchen. Her dad, she says, dotted on her and made sure that she lacked no good thing. He never let her use her airtime to call him. He bought her newspapers every day so she could ace what was not even a major course module for her, communication. When he fell sick, she found that the job she had could not cater for his bills. She could not sit helpless and watch him not get the care he deserved. So she decided to run a paid cookery lesson for ladies. Her social media post attracted many respondents and she was able to carry out the lesson. From her earnings, she was able to give her father access to good health care.

Her starting out was a response to the love her father had lavished on her. Many of us may relate to the desparation of an ill parent, and many times we view the desparation as our driving force. The driving force behind the actions is love. So if we can labor, drawing from love wells of our earthly fathers how much more the love of our Heavenly Father.

That’s why Paul says he labored much more abundantly by the grace of God. The Grace of God empowers and compels us to work. God’s love working in our lives leads us to do immeasurably more than we ever imagined or thought. (Ephesians 3:20) This is the gift of Work.

Never Enough

The Myth of Retirement. Part II

‘You need to save for your retirement,’ became the clarion call for all of us to move to the start of the rat race! The statement by itself maybe right but all information is filtered through the lenses of society and experience.

I finally got round to watching The Greatest Showman and observing the P.T. Barnum, it was like looking into a mirror. He finally lands the deal of a lifetime,Jenny Lind. You know that deal that we are all praying and looking for. The one that will propel us further up the societal curve and land us closer to retirement. The context of retirement in this case is included in an earlier blog. So, he lands this deal, in the form of a tour. And off he goes, he leaves his circus, his family, his wealth and pursues the deal with all his heart, nothing shall stop him.

Your salary is never enough to give you, the retirement you want: the pina colada sipping by the beach- kind, the golf playing by the ocean- kind, the house on acres of land- kind. Armed with this knowledge, we became deal (a.k.a some ka money chasers), what was trending? Could it be sold for profit? What kind of margins would it bring me? If they were good, they were added to the job. In addition to my employment business card, I added another and another and another. If there was money 💰 clinking into the pocket, it meant it was working. Not so?

Well, not quite. The insurance sales man, all dressed to kill, walks in and teaches us a new thing, it’s called life insurance. The compounding effect is unbelievable. Yes, we must do this! What does it entail? More money! So back to the drawing board, how much longer must I work to achieve this? How much more money must I squeeze out of these margins? That’s when, the walls came crumbling down, all these clinks in the back were not money. They were chocolate covered stones. At least there is chocolate, let’s continue!

Back to the rat race! But it was never enough. Doors continually opened. Doors continually closed. Time remained finite even when I dared to defy it. The sun set at the same time and rose at the same time. Every morning carried a work load from the previous day and the day before that and the day before that. Yet, still, each day came with it’s own work load, ‘a woman’s work is never done,’ I quipped and carried on.

Lying on that hard hospital bed, with a canula attached and the whole clinic looking for what was wrong? I slowly came to the realization that this would never work. Either I was going to die trying or simply die. From where I lay, there were no pina coladas, no golf courses, no home baked goodies, just endless white ceiling.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3 NKJV

Eternal means never ending. If I have eternal life, I have never ending life. It means that if my life is never ending, I need to live it better. I need to make better choices. It gets better.

Jesus Christ continues to say that life is about knowing God, the only true God and knowing Jesus Christ. Knowing, like knowing knowing? Or knowing like knowing? 😂😂

Thank God for the Greek word, ginóskó that is more definitive. To know experientially, first hand. Like the intimate knowledge of a husband and a wife. Wow.

Repeat it again.

So you mean that eternal life is not living forever and ever. It is, because God is eternal. Knowing God will take you through to eternity.

When Mary, the sister of Martha met Jesus, she decided that her singular purpose in life would be to sit at the feet of Jesus. Her sister, Martha even complained to Jesus about her workload and Mary not lifting even a finger to help, Mary did not bat an eyelid. Being seated is a position of rest, she rested. She found such delight in knowing Jesus that she was the only one privileged to prepare his body for death. Her very expensive perfume (worth an entire year’s wages) was nothing compared to the joy she found using the perfume to anoint his feet and body. This same Mary was the first person to meet the risen Jesus. Jesus Is Enough.

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41‭-‬42 NKJV

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

Is the phrase, with which Patrick Henry ended his now Famous Speech (a link to a very passionate rendition) at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia. In August 1775. This is the speech that sealed the resolution of the thirteen colonies to secede from the British Empire. Henry then, began his role in arming a militia that would lead the American revolutionaries to the Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776.

Liberty in the United States is even immortalised in the statue of Lady Liberty, or Libertas. A gift from the French people to celebrate American freedom. (the idea was conceived in 1865 and Lady Liberty took her place on Ellis Island in 1886.)

What is liberty? Why is it so important that a man would rather die than live without it? As a young girl, I always assumed that everyone was free to do as they please, within the bounds of the law of course. For as long as what I did made my parents happy, I was free to do as I pleased. My perception of liberty was forged in furnace of my neighborhood and formed on the anvil of school. In school, as long as I did what made my parents and teachers happy, I was at liberty and I never had to die for it. I imagine that if I had read Patrick Henry’s speech in school, I would have been plunged into this liberty discourse earlier.

Permit me, dear reader to introduce you to the idea that there is freedom beyond the law and the anti-thesis; that laws can curtail freedom. The Magna Carta and philosophers of the Enlightenment belabored the anti-thesis- creating alternatives for liberty under the law. Some elevated reason and though they recognized natural laws, they rejected the One who made these laws.

Cogito, ergo sum – ‘ I think, therefore I am,’ has been sang in different variations since the 17th century but it has not lead to liberty. Philosophers like Spinoza, Hobbes struggled with the issue of evil, because if one thinks evil, then they are evil. Without laws to curtail the freedoms of evil people, where would society end? Men would need to give up their liberty in exchange for protection from governments, Hobbes argued. John Locke, on the other hand, believed men created governments only to safe guard their rights to liberty, life and property. It seems then that the role of a government is to protect the liberty of the governed, whether as an exchange or as a ‘social contract.’

Almost two centuries later, after Patrick Henry’s speech, in my own country, Uganda, a group of young lads with 27 guns, took to the bush in 1981 because they were seeking liberty. Their government had not protected their Liberty, so they too took up arms. Today, we commemorate their liberation of Uganda on 26th January 1986.

Seated here, 35 years later, it is evident that we as a people have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The existing laws cannot redeem any man from depravity. We still cry about hunger, injustice, corruption, extra judicial killings, illiteracy, unemployment, violence, rape, fake UMEME, wars etcetera etcetera. Having spent most of my time locked down in 2020, because of a COVID-19 virus pandemic, I am very cognizant of the inability of the government to protect me in exchange for my liberty. Because the virus, bacteria and other disease causing germs do not exchange their liberty to any government, they are at liberty to do as they please. Where does one go when those assigned to protect are unable to do so?

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord .”

Luke 4:18-19 NKJV

Luke records Jesus Christ as reading this text written by Prophet Isaiah in a synagogue in Nazareth where he had grown up. The Jews threw him out, for one, they were still under the very oppressive rule of the Romans. He could not state such things and leave them as they are. Secondly, they knew Him. He was their homeboy, he could not be the Messiah.

Well, two millennia later, we know better. But we still need to believe better. Our liberty was proclaimed and Jesus has all the authority in Heaven and on Earth. (Matthew 28:19NKJV) The government is on His shoulder. (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV) He is the One we should run to for Liberty.

Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:7 NKJV

Vanilla Essence

Or maybe I should call it The myth of retirement. Part 1. All through school, we always heard about and planned for retirement at some ripe old age. It was the utopian idea that at this age, one would have time to take all those holidays they missed, take a cruise around the world, run a farm and maybe play golf all day. Getting into the fast and furious rat race, I quickly realized this was too good to be true. There was just no one around me who lived like this. The only pensioners I knew were in their homes, in Kabale, where my parents grew up. And they were still very active in the political and economic life of Kigezi. Plus, the only reason I knew they were pensioners was because they were always coming to Kampala to fill out some forms to enable them to get their pension. This journey is about 500kms and because the roads were worse for wear, it took almost 24 hrs. All of my life. 😏

So what was retirement then? Did it simply mean that I was too old for formal employment? Not everyone is was formally employed, some were self employed. There, lived around the periphery of Makerere University, a group of elderly Batooro men who peddled anything and everything. One of the peddled recycled bottles, he collected glass bottles from our households, at that time everything was bottled in glass. He cleaned them up and sold them off. Would he retire? When would he retire? My nanny, was so old, Maria, bless her heart. She plucked out all my milk teeth, never needed a dentist. Would she retire as well? When would she retire?

Then came the Structural Adjustment Programs that saw the massive layoffs of public servants. They were given severance pay and overnight, they were no longer civil servants. Were they retired? Apparently, they were. But they were too young for cruises and yet too old for their former jobs. They reinvented the wheel. Early retirement became an option.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is a description of the buzz around me when I decided to retire. Nevertheless, when I opted to retire, time took on an elastic quality. I would have all the time to do everything, I had wanted to do. So I bought vanilla essence. I was going to be baking fresh muffins for breakfast and desserts for my family, so they could also live the life. I have a very sweet tooth.  It did not help matters that one of my retirement gifts was a desserts recipe book.  I would like to take a moment here and laugh 😂🤣 at this plan. Four years down the road, the essence is a running joke among my sons. I never baked a cake or dessert or any such thing.

…Life it goes on

Robert Frost

School schedules remained the same. Traffic jam remained the same. The earth still orbited the sun for 24 hrs. The dry and rainy seasons still remained. The visa application process for those long boat cruises remained just as rigorous if not more. Morning routines remained. Meal times remained.

And so it was that I found myself grappling with the word retirement and its meaning. Would it vanish like Santa and the tooth fairy? Only to reappear when my own children were learning about milk teeth and Christmas gifts. Would it be deleted from my word bank? Would it take on a new meaning? The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah, there were prophecies by great famous prophets like Elijah and Isaiah and little known ones like Micah and Joel. This Jesus who had just fed over five thousand of them with two fish and five loaves, might be the one. They followed Jesus in small boats across the Sea of Tiberius to Capernaum. After all, Moses had fed their forefathers with manna, surely Jesus could do better. Maybe He could even show them how He did it.

Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.”
John 6:29 AMP

Surely, it could not be that simple. There should be a miracle he could perform. But, just like it was for me, the realisation that life is the journey of believing and trusting in Jesus is the ultimate mythbuster. Many of them walked away that day. Ultimately, the goal of life is not retirement but to believe in Jesus. Totally blew my sails out! This was not what I was expecting but it was how I had always lived. So if I had lived this way, was living this way, surely I should continue to live like so?

The essence of life is to believe in Jesus, the One sent by God. The Bread of life that satisfies my hungry soul.