It’s Friday night. Work is done for the week and it’s time to take a break. If you’re like me, you might enjoy getting out a board game or a deck of cards and making it a Game Night!
Do you remember Hasbro’s The Game of Life board game? Each player gets their own little car. You stick a peg in the driver’s spot, spin the wheel, and major life events happen to you. You might go to college and earn a degree; you might get a great job and make tons of money; you might get married and have children; or you might not do any of those things. Everything depends on the spin of the wheel – it is a game of chance.
This reminds me of Doris Day’s song, Que Sera Sera – whatever will be will be. That sounds like a risky way to view life! I’ll just roll with the punches, take things as they come, let Nature take its course, take my chances.
Admittedly, it’s much easier to concede defeat in a game of chance. When you lose in a board game or card game in which your advancements or points are solely tied to the roll of a die or the spin of a wheel, you are relieved of blame for a loss. There is no shame in losing when Lady Luck is in charge. This is the type of game many of my Kindergarten children would prefer to play. “It was just a game of chance; right, Mrs. Val?” Right. The loss has no reflection on your intelligence or skills.
Some games such as Mattel’s card game Skip-Bo require some strategy, in addition to the luck of the draw. Picking up the right cards is necessary for a win, but things go better when you are educated on how to play the game, and you use some tactics such as holding onto cards until it’s most advantageous, using your wild cards wisely, blocking other players from succeeding, and strategically placing cards in your discard piles to aid in your future goals. Luck plays a role, but a loss carries with it some responsibility – maybe I could have played better.
When compared with life itself, this type of game is a little more realistic. You use strategy to make things happen, but there’s still elements that are beyond your control: what part of the world you were born in, with its social systems including access to health care and education; your family’s socio-economic class; the stability and support of your family unit; and, yes, race and gender too.
You may or may not be familiar with the hands-on game Crokinole. Ontario-made in the 1800s, this wooden game board hides forgotten in a dusty corner of many homes and cottages. Crokinole has rules similar to curling with players flicking small wooden buttons with their fingers on a round board with pegs and a hole in the centre. The goal is to knock off your opponent’s buttons, while keeping yours in the highest scoring areas of the board. Your chance of winning is much more reliant on skill attained through practice. There are definite handicaps such as my friend’s developing arthritis or my long gel nails (I don’t compare those as similar issues, other than making it difficult to play with accuracy!). Crokinole is a game in which a player can easily get frustrated and tire of losing to a more skilled opponent. For this reason, I no longer play with Hubby unless we’re playing “teams” with another couple! (I still play tennis with him because we are equally amateurish at that!)
Some people are born with skills and talents which make them better suited to succeed in certain areas. Someone with exercise-induced asthma is not likely to be a professional athlete. Someone with short, stubby fingers might not be suited to be a master pianist.
Some skills can be learned, however, and a bit of hard work can create success. High school graduates register for college courses and walk out a couple years later ready to start careers in fields they knew very little about when they started. Almost anyone can be taught how to sing. You can learn to dance apparently – I don’t think I can, but that’s just me. Even what looks like a handicap can sometimes be overcome, such as a small hockey player using speed and agility to make up for size.
After the education, however, practice is needed before the skills are mastered. Before you really play the game well.
Every game comes with Rules of Play. Each player must learn the rules, and adhere to them, in order to play the game as the creator meant it to be played. When playing a game at a friend’s place, however, sometimes you need to be aware of certain House Rules. Despite the fact that there is a set of finite instructions written in the accompanying documentation, some people agree on modifications to rules. As long as everyone accepts the changes, all is well. However, if the House Rules aren’t stated up front, disputes can occur.
In Kindergarten, we talk a lot about rules and why there is a need for them. Most rules in society are there to keep us safe and to maintain order. We may not always agree with them, but in most cases, the rules are made with our best interests in mind.
Life – The Real Deal
On my stage as a Christian, I don’t believe that my life is a game of chance. If I attribute everything positive to luck, and blame everything negative on bad luck, I take no responsibility for my own actions. I’m just a small ‘Cruiser’ on a Battleship game board. If I’m lucky, my opponent won’t use any strategy and my ship won’t get hit by a missile.
No, in my mind, when good things happen to me, I am blessed, I am thankful, I am given a wonderful gift. I know where to turn my grateful heart:
“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”James 1:17
Do I point my finger at the devil for my hardships? That’s a bit trickier. There’s no doubt that Satan wants to see me lose this game; that he’d love for me to give up. He’s likely responsible for some of the bad stuff that happens to me. But nobody ever promised life would be all sunshine and roses, even when you believe in a loving God. Sometimes my Father allows me to go through difficult things so I learn to depend on Him more. Sometimes I make bad choices and suffer the consequences. Sometimes, I don’t understand things at all – why bad things happen to good people (why hundreds of thousands of people die in a global pandemic, for example). But I believe that the Director of my life sees the big picture. I don’t. Whether I understand or not, luck has nothing to do with it.
Like the games which require strategy and practice, I learn the rules in life, and I work hard to follow them. I need to spend time reading the Christian’s rule book – a fairly thick manual called the Bible. The more familiar I become with it, and the more I practice loving God and loving other people, the more confident I can be that I’m playing the game well.
While I don’t have to work to earn God’s love, He blesses those who do their best. I don’t expect large houses and fancy cars to magically appear if I spend my whole life lying around reading romance novels and eating candy, no matter how appealing that may sound.
“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”Romans 12:11
“You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be!”Psalm 128:2
Labor. Work. God rewards people who work hard. However, one of the more important criteria on His pay scale is love. If I work night and day with the desire to be rich and powerful, but mistreat others to get ahead or ignore those who love me, He may not bless me in the way I’d hoped. As His child, I want to make my heavenly Dad proud and continue the reputation that goes with our family name, and that includes my work ethic. If that means teaching in the classroom in the fall with its COVID-uncertainties, or online, or a combination of both, I will do the best that I can, with God’s help. Working from home, as many of us have been forced to do, comes with a different type of commitment. With no one there to supervise, it’s much easier to goof off with that romance novel when I should be working. Ah, but I do have an all-seeing Supervisor, don’t I?
“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”Proverbs 16:3
When I put my trust in my Father and I believe that He knows what’s best for me, I won’t modify His guidelines to create my own House Rules. He loves me and wants me to live the best life possible. And in the end, I will be a winner.
“But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Corinthians 15:57
Victory! Yes! And what’s the prize for winning this game? Just eternal life and a home in Heaven.
I’ll accept that.
Is your life a game of chance, strategy or skill? Whose rulebook do you play by?