I love video games. But, I stink at video games. Which makes me the ultimate opponent if you want to win. I can't get past 11th place on Wii Mario Kart (which those of you who play know that is next to last place). Nonetheless, I never give up. I spent a roomful of quarters at the local arcade when I was a teenager. Pac-Man was my game, but I'd play just about anything that would eat my quarter, and then eat another, and so on. This is clearly why I don't gamble, or I'd own Vegas. I even have an affinity to online games, which, thankfully, require no quarters to be inserted in my computer to play.
The thrill of the games for me is more than just winning (obviously since I rarely do) but getting through each level. Most games are designed to take you through various levels of play that increase in difficulty. The ease of the first level of play always indicates to me how difficult future levels will be. If I can't make it past level one, I'm doomed. (Pun intended) But no matter how many levels I conquer, I just want to get to that next one and conquer it too. Clearly, though, when I reach a new level it's like a sucker punch to the gut. Whoa! More obstacles, new pits to avoid, tricky roads to navigate....it's literally a whole new world. (Cue the song from Aladdin) Every level ends one of two ways...you fail and you hear that horrible music indicating the game has ended, or you succeed and you see beautifully displayed on the screen...Level Up! What affirming and validating words those can be to the competitive spirit!
My Thelma (Amy) took me to dinner last night for Mother's Day as her spiritual mama. (Oh how I love her) We always have the greatest conversations because our minds are frighteningly similar. It may have something to do with the fact that her grandmother and my mother were very good friends and very much alike. She was sharing about life and the struggles that come along with walking the road when this analogy came to mind. On our spiritual journey, we're always striving to achieve a "Level Up!" When we become followers of Christ and begin that personal relationship, we're literally babies in the faith. Our first levels are covering the basics of life. Even the smallest of obstacles are tough at that stage. But as we grow in Him, He challenges us. In "church speak" we call that "sanctification" ...the process of being made holy. Each level, the road gets a bit tougher, the challenges a bit messier, but the rewards oh so much sweeter. It's as if when we conquer one level of sanctification, God says "My child, buckle up, we're going on a new ride!" And we realize that the success of each "Level Up!" is done only through the power of God. Nothing on our own. Yet, He chooses us to grow us and prepare us for future levels. Only He sees the complete video game of our lives.
If we had our druthers, we'd rather breeze through each level with ease. But, what reward is there in that? Seeing the "Level Up!" on the screen of our lives is a blessing and reward that assures us we're seeking Him and growing more and more like Christ. He knows exactly when we can handle each level and takes us through our game of life precisely when He wants us to be there. If you could have a life with no loss, or struggle, or tragedy, would you choose it? I might answer quickly with an affirming YES! but if I were to truly reflect on my past, I would have to admit that without those difficult levels, I wouldn't be the person God has molded me to be today. And it amazes me at what more He will teach me at every level of life.
You never like to see "Game Over" come across the screen of your video game because it means you failed. One day, when my life on earth is through, I'll walk into Heaven, bow at Jesus' feet and I long to hear Him say..."Game Over, my child...Well done, My good and faithful servant. Let eternity begin!" I'll have reached the ultimate Level Up.