I’ve never been especially good at chess. I’m fascinated by the game but I still remain no Bobby Fischer. Over the years I’ve tried to convince myself to study the game, to engross myself with stratagems and tactics, but as far as I’ve gotten has been learning the rules and how the pieces move.
My notion to master the game came back as I was reading a biography on the life of Miguel de Cervantes (the famed Spanish author of Don Quixote). I discovered he spent several years in Algeria as a slave. Purchased by a cruel and unpredictable dictator he survived because of his skill at chess. At any time he could have been freed if only he recanted Christ and followed after the faith of his Turkish master. For five years he lived like a pawn, far from home and family, and suffered several failed escape attempts.
Sitting at a friend’s house a couple weeks ago as we were preparing the afternoon tea I was invited to play chess. They rolled out the checkered board and we began to place the pieces. As we sat on the ground, the smell of charcoal under the tin kettle mingled with the spiced smell of steeped tea, my mind began to fill with images of the thin Spaniard sitting across an ornate table, senses filled with incense and turbans. I couldn’t help but think of the witness Cervantes gave to his captor every day he sat stalwart in his faith, every day he moved the pieces across the chessboard, his slave hands playing the game of kings.
One of my friends began to explain the deep importance that chess played for them as Muslims. It prepares them for life, for war, equips them with strategy for victory. As we sat drinking our tea our conversation turned to Christ. With the chessboard by my foot, I felt the pressure so many have before, to win the lost through strategy and argument. As my friends began to ply me with leading questions, questions that would lead me toward their religious conclusions I found myself pushing away from strategy and schemes. As we talked about Adam & Eve, Abraham and the God of Abraham I pressed my heart and our conversation toward Christ. My goal was not to win a theological argument and lose the soul across the board. I would rather see myself with the slain king at our feet. My friends had come equipped for combat, but how could I rise up against them?
As we concluded our hours of incredible Christ-seeking discussion I prayed for them in Jesus name. One of the men looked at me afterwards and surprisingly said, “I am the talibe, you are the warekat. (I am the disciple and you are the preacher).” May the Lord make these words true.
Thank you for sending us here, like pawns for Christ, as a personal link from the local church to the unreached. Pray that we would see that entire family come to know Jesus as the conquering King. The true Warekat, the Sovereign Word.