A Curious Faith: Love, Loss and Living

Copyright© 2016 by Kevin Muriithi.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by the Kenya copyright Act.

Cover design: Wexer Brand Agency Ltd

First Printing 2016

Printed in Nairobi, Kenya by Jomatong Investments.

Unless otherwise quoted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

All emphasis in Scripture quotations have been added by the author.

Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-9966-094-70-4

E-Book ISBN: 978-9966-095-61-9

To those with intellectually honest questions

and those seeking God’s hand of comfort and

revelation.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgment

Foreword

Preface

CHAPTER 1 | Close to Our Hearts

Mother Nature Sings

Searching for Mystery

Can Philosophy Provide an Answer?

Another Way

The Clearer Way

CHAPTER 2 | Cooking in the Oven of Seminary

A Voice in the Desert

Finding a Footing

CHAPTER 3 | Lament for a Brother

An Early Morning Call

The Agony of Death and the Comfort of God

The Mystery of Death

Grieving as Process

CHAPTER 4 | Love and Food on the Table

Finding Her: A Beginning Love

Long Distances: A Brooding Love

Finding Work: Stewarding Love

One Becoming: A Courting Love

CHAPTER 5 | Gathering Around the African Pot

A Picture of Family

A Different Kingdom

A Community for Misfits

Afterword

Bibliography

About the Author

Acknowledgment

The number of people who have been instrumental in the implementation of this project have been many. I would like to thank Jessica Murugi for her continual support and belief in this project. Dorothy Muriu, Edward Buri, Joanne Ingaa, Anthony Munyi and Njoki Gachoka and others, have been other close friends who have pushed me to exercise this writing gift. My parents, James and Angela Muriithi and my siblings, Ann Waitherero and Alex Kaguti have provided the emotional and social support required to accomplish this undertaking.

Prof. Elizabeth Mburu, Wexer designs and Jomatong Investments have played crucial roles in the final outlook of this book. I extend my gratitude to them. Ernest Wamboye also deserves special mention as he gave me very helpful advice on the process of publishing. To the many others who have checked up on me and prayed for and with me concerning the writing of this book, I would like to say a big thank you. God deserves the ultimate glory, for making all this a possibility and it is my hope that this book will be read in that lens. Soli deo Gloria.

 

Foreword

Kevin’s approach to life is rare in one so young. He asks questions that few would dare to ask and is not afraid of what the answers hold. He embraces right reason and allows it its rightful place in his faith – this is at least one secret to a well lived life. His questions about life, and yes, even death, are profound and have far-reaching consequences. For Kevin, these are questions that demand to be answered and in this book, he gives us a glimpse into his heart and mind.  His quest for meaning in life has led him through many doorways until at last he has stumbled on the right answer. A life lived with a right orientation to God, much like the preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes, is the only life worth living. This is a book that every person, young or old, will benefit from reading.

Prof. Elizabeth Mburu (PhD)

Head of Department

Biblical and Theological Studies

International Leadership University

Preface

So why did you choose to write this book?

To be honest, and not to sound cliche, I have been for a long time toying with the idea of writing a book. The central reason is to share what I have learnt from my African-Christian background, and from my experiences in a way that benefits others. I think that everyone has a unique contribution to make in this world, and I think that this is a small and needed contribution on my part. There are times that an exacting conviction drives you to do something which is within your duty to accomplish. In this regard then, duty calls. I have to also add, the passing of my brother somehow gave me the added impetus to pursue this duty.

Outside the bounds of such an obligation, I have a desire to write books of good quality in order to show the genuineness and reliability of a life of faith in Jesus Christ. Hence, a pillar of my writing is to make him known and to welcome others to putting their personal trust in him. We live in times in which very many truths exist in our shrinking and globalizing world and wading through them can be psychologically, morally and intellectually tiring. This has been a part of my experience.

I had many questions about the Christian faith and the first chapter gives more details on that period of my life and how I eventually stumbled upon faith by God’s grace. The second chapter captures my time in seminary, where I went to deepen my following of Jesus and prepare for sharing with others the trustworthiness of following him, despite our inherent shortcomings, in language at times direct and other times imaginative. I was also seeking reasons for the faith hence my concentration in the field of apologetics during my postgraduate studies. At a time where credible, honest intellectual inquiry of the faith was not encouraged, I hoped that I could at least point some to such a path that would be rewarding, not only in this world but the next. My third chapter deals with the loss of my brother. Such pain and suffering is a universal experience and here I share the reality of loss, the process of grieving and the comfort of God that allowed me to have hope, in the midst of dread. In the fourth chapter I share how I found love and how choosing a vocation is a dynamic, life-long process. I end the book with the fifth chapter showing that we are all looking for a family that is genuine, truthful and caring of one another. By looking at my past, I seek to draw the reader to the reality that it doesn’t matter whatever depths of character failures you have fallen to, the kingdom of God is a welcome for all who seek to know the truth and to walk in it. In the words of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Writing this first book has been a roller coaster. For instance, the tone of the initial idea cooled off from an academic and technical language to a more human and reflective mood, and hence the choice of memoir as a genre that permeates this book. A Curious Faith has in a way set the tone for the rest of my writing endeavours and hence helped me overcome my inner fears to pursue such a calling. On the other hand, it has been an emotionally exhilarating journey with joys and relived sorrows, with honest and at times scary vulnerability. If there be no other purpose, it is my hope that the recorded recollections serve to point the reader to the dynamism of faith. It is in the marginal places that we sometimes find awe and aspiration and similarly avarice and anger. To try to be objective while recording subjective experiences may be akin to flogging a dead horse. Yet I think that this kind of introspection is necessary for appreciating the Lord’s leading in our lives and may help us to open ourselves up to him as his Spirit searches us. This book serves as one lens in the sea of a billion others that talk about themes common to all of life: the search for God, the loss of a loved one, brooding love and making sense of this wonderful thing called life.

Appreciating the diversity and universality of the human experience, these reflections may on one hand resound with some, whereas with others, imitate a clanging cymbal. That is fine. I welcome you to this place to find that which may resound with you. I welcome you to this space to dialogue with me. It is through this sharpening of each other that we can learn. At best, we are all students of life. And of God. I pray you see that faith in him provides a richly coloured life core, a melodious life rhythm, a diadem of life’s richness and meaning in the face of the unknown, the painful and the everyday.

Kevin Muriithi,

November 2015


CHAPTER | 1

Close to Our Hearts

Mother Nature Sings

If I was a tender piece of meat in an oven, this scorching mid-day sun would do me well. Sitting atop the staircase leading to the main door of my parents’ house, my stomach is well fed from the late morning breakfast. The tea with buttered-bread and a dip of honey has satiated my sweet teeth. Perhaps this an inkling of my liking for things fragrant and beautiful. As is my habit to indulge in literature for my aesthetic pleasures, my Facebook application soon leads to readings on mysticism, and Christian mysticism in particular, after several clicks on my newly acquired infinix hot note. Like the technological gadgets ever so popular, this one is on fire though not on the high-end cadre. It is a more advanced kabambe, one that serves me well. I read several articles, perhaps searching for something that would spark something within me for the day, possibly to learn and understand how others see differently from my perspective. I have for a long time also considered myself a seeker. In our own ways, we all are. My inner explorations soon lead me to an appreciation of what is out there. I gaze outside, somehow drawn towards the clock-work synchrony of this external world. Within seconds, my searching finds itself contemplating the wonders of the natural world, mother nature as she is fondly known.

The ancient writer in the Psalms observes that the natural world pours forth speech. In his own words:

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth . . . (Ps. 19:1-4)

The white mass of cloud hovers by gradually in the light blue background of the sky in the horizon. An affirmation to this speaking, the multi-coloured roses, lilies and sunflowers are in concert with the incessant chirping of the birds, with their different harmonies. Their singing never seems to end. The palms and pines are melodiously dancing to the whispering wind, as she traverses to and fro, not knowing whither to go. A long time passion of mine has been listening to this speech of nature that seems ever so harmonious, orderly and perfect in design. I enjoy spending time in her presence, for to me she is a theatre of the beauties and excellences of something other than that which is us. She mysteriously points to something else.

Searching for Mystery

I had for a long time searched for this something else. Many who consider themselves rational and conscious, often times may have been my fellow sojourners in this search. This passion for this mysterious other coupled with my love for reading all sorts of books and interacting with a plethora of different personalities led me in interesting detours. It seemed to me that my background’s religiosity was a conclave within which this mystery of the divine was nurtured, only that the older generation of my family seemed to have strict definitions of this mystery: At least I thought. These definitions were constricted in their appeal, they weren’t open-minded enough. At least I thought.

In my childhood years, I went to church as a formality, in order to maintain my familial heritage and cultivate the respect and honour due to my parents. This is how Africans have always lived. Embedded in this sense of honour and hierarchy in African culture, had been a communal sense of what was the right and wrong thing in society, what was beautiful and what was threatening. I had gone through the rituals and stages of any youth growing up in a church setting: baptism, initiation, confirmation and teenage life. According to my own rubric of internalization, I felt that this tight, defined road was antagonistic to my sense of mystery. But who could I have told? Was it right to feel this way? Would I be labelled as an infidel, a heathen maybe?

In a community in which the societal structures did not provide means of genuine inquiry, how could my internal dialogues find voice? Would the older members in the communal institutions to which I had been entrusted to, be able to successfully capture my restlessness, my incessant curiosity and my contorted face that ensued a ritual which I was meant to observe? I was not sure that anyone was aware of my searching. Neither was I convinced that someone could take on the place of an understanding interlocutor to silence my inner unsettling.

The search continued to my university years. Here I was all alone to pursue my path of self-actualization. Indicative of the adjective self I sought the pleasures of young adult life. Having once taken an oath with my younger self that I would never drink, my curiosity would soon antagonize my internal promise. The smoky puffs initially were mere experimenting, partly penetrating but eventually entrenching. The smoky room was a sanctuary within which I found liberation and happiness; a place of disconnection from my inner questions of identity and my search for the ultimate high. More and more it became definitive of what it meant to have a good time. More frequent than not, this was accompanied by the occasional beers and the frequent whiskies, brandies and vodkas in copious amounts. These cocktails were the fire and brimstone for the melting pot of the parties, and the intellectual conversations that we had which sometimes would turn to inebriated, repetitive accounts of the same old stories and crazy times experienced beforehand. This happiness seemed short-lived for the mornings after would be reminiscent of heavy heads, cold hearts and passivity. Some other times, they were gateways to vicious cycles of endless parties that kept us going round and round and round, without a stop. A search for the ultimate high. The ultimate happiness. Was it a numbing of the deeper longings? Was the chasing of the skirts an attempt to quench the hunger of true communion? How had the idea of what is beautiful gotten marred by existential carelessness?

***

You can get the entire e-book here Amazon or locally, physical copies can be found at St. Andrews guild shop, Parklands Baptist book shop or get it delivered anywhere in Kenya from Magunga Online Bookstore.

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