Monday, May 28, 2012
The Game of Life
It seems to me that a crucial lesson to be learned in our life, part of our growing in holiness, can be viewed as the changing of our parents, from the ones who gave earthly birth to us to even better parents, the ones that give us heavenly birth.
Now our earthly parents are doing us a great favor if they set us off on this parental transition with confidence, kind of a “we must grow less, as they grow more” attitude. Earthly parents who give us the gift of faith are truly a blessing, but many lives are not blessed in this way. This changing of parents, which was intended from the beginning of creation to be a smooth transition, often is anything but that --- largely because people are involved, and people have free will, and people make mistakes. And then life, like a football game, is full of surprises.
A fumbled handoff in life is not always recovered by the ones that fumbled or the intended receiver of the ball, sometimes the opposition can recover and take over. And often that IS a surprise. We’re born; we get faith; things are going smoothly, and ---- whoops, what happened? Suddenly we’re grabbed and we’re moving in the other direction. And our parents, and us, didn’t expect this. We had this smooth offense planned, to move us down the field of life, and it started out so well that we never planned to play defense, we never thought bad things would happen. But when a fumble occurs and the opposition takes hold of our life, the offensive team must be prepared to play defense --- or it will lose. And it must have a defensive mindset: recover and get moving on offense again; the enemy has temporary possession of the ball, not permanent possession.
Life, fortunately, is not exactly like a game of football, and we are not like a football. Our parents can start quarterbacking us down the field and attempt a smooth handoff to our spiritual parents to move us forward in holiness, but if the handoff is fumbled and we fall to the ground, temporarily in the possession of neither, we, unlike a football, can choose to bounce toward either one --- not the “lucky bounce” of a football, but truly a “like the ball had eyes” play. We can “lose a few yards” and bounce back to our parents to rely upon them again, to help get us moving forward. Or, we can bounce in the direction of God, trusting He will catch us and this will be a good thing --- we will gain from trusting God. We can, with our freedom, choose the direction we wish to go. Or not.
Sometimes, when we suddenly find ourselves on the ground of life, we can choose to just lie there in the mud, making no progress, trusting no one, thinking we are alone. Unfortunately, this is the choice of many people. It’s a bad choice.
I’d like to believe that the people who just can’t seem to get up when their life is fumbled don’t understand the gift of freedom they have. Or maybe their parents never told them what the goal of life is, and so they never felt the joy of making progress in holiness. Or maybe they never learned about God, and how He could be trusted to love them, and take them to a safe home. I’d like to believe these things, to make an excuse for the ones who can’t get up off the ground, or even for the ones who don’t try to avoid getting picked up by the enemy, Satan, and get carried away the other way: “Maybe they just didn’t know, Lord. Maybe they were never taught. Have pity on them please?”
But our God is a God who can read our hearts, and although love is a gift He freely gives us, it is not one he forces us in freedom to accept, or to give to others. It’s where our choice comes in. His oft-stated command in the Gospel of John is “Love one another.” It is a key message of life: we must choose to love. Our choosing to bounce in the right direction when life gives us a fumble is our choice to love. Our earthly parents give us love and make us want it; our heavenly parents give us love and make us want to give it. By choosing not to love, to just lay on the ground like a fumbled stupid football, apathetic to who picks us up or where we go in life, we are choosing not to be who we were created and taught to be, not imitating our parents, not going where we were meant to go in this game of life.
The game of life was set up so that the team first in possession of the ball, us in the hands of our parents, has an advantage. It can start us moving in the right direction. It is up to us then, with our freedom, to choose to continue in that direction, and accept their handoff to the care of our future eternal parents, and score a victory with our life. And while they have crucial roles in our life, parents being with us and leading us forward throughout our life, we have a critical part also. Our desire to go forward in life, to go with spiritual growth, is to choose to love.
Sometimes with the freedom we have we get confused, and we think we are in total control of our life. We don’t know about any handoff between our parents, and we think we grow up and are on our own --- to win or lose the game of life is our responsibility alone. But we are not as free as we might think, because in some ways we ARE like that football and in a game. A football doesn’t get to measure progress, and it doesn’t determine the rules. It doesn’t get to say if something is “fair,” and doesn’t complain about a “bad spot,” nor that a foul wasn’t called. And a football doesn’t get to keep score. It does, however, get crushed, kicked, fallen upon, and sometimes spiked. No one cheers the football. And while the football is designed to do many wonderful things, it can make no progress alone. In these ways, we are like a football.
But on the other hand, our life is NOT like a football in that we can choose to move forward, and we can do that by choosing to love. Love makes us yearn to move forward. Pentecost gave us love, and a visible example of it in action. Love one another; love knows no language.
We are meant to be victorious in the game of life; all life was created with a bias to desire victory, to yearn for God. A bias toward God, so that in some ways all we have to do is go with the flow and victory can be assured. But our parents are there to help, so that we can then do our part. Oh, and there is one thing more to remember: although the game of life may be very rough and tumble at times, there is a GRRREEAAATT victory celebration planned at the end. Never forget the reason for the game, nor the celebration at the end.
And plan on attending.
Life is a rough and tumble game, with lots of grunting and lots of pain, but there is a reason for it. And there are huge stands of people in the skies cheering us on. Don’t give up. Do not be anxious, even if you are losing at some point. The game isn’t over until it’s over.
(And even if you look over and it seems no one is cheering you; they’re eating hot dogs in the stands; they’re still thinking about you. Even cheerleaders need to get re-energized some times, and enjoy the friends around them. I like to think of my family in heaven that way, cheering me on, until I get too old to play anymore. Then taking me home, to be with them again. And we’ll re-tell the story of my game endlessly! )