So I've been thinking about games lately. One in particular: The Game of Life. Now maybe I'm on my own here but I personally find the concept to be pretty dull. In my opinion a game should involve imagination, creativity and a chance to explore a world free from the rules and restrictions of everyday life.
Sure I may get to pretend that I am married and have children for an evening but frankly I just don't find that particularly thrilling.
The game has several elements. They include, establishing your home life, your education, career and then eventually your retirement. The career side of things is relatively accurate. You have to choose whether you go into debt by going to college in order to get a higher paying job later on in the game or alternatively to start earning straight away but at a lower income rate.
I think this dilemma will resonate with a lot of people here. From then on everything that happens is up to chance: what square you land on and what career card you draw.
To some extent maybe this also accurately reflects real life in that we cannot predict or control the curve balls that are thrown at us during this time. However some other things the game fails to account for is our individual capacity for hard work, our attitude and our Faith.
Things we can't control in our own game of life include but are not limited to: Our gender, family, genetics, financial situation growing up, secular or church upbringing, early education, special talents, whether we've moved around and when or if we meet 'the one'.
Most of these things are either the constants in our life such as our family or our early experiences that shape who we are. Yet at the stage of emerging adulthood there are more and more things that suddenly we do have a say in and maybe this is what's scary. It's not the lack of control so much as the sudden plethora of choices and decisions to be made.
Sure we can't control the job market or the economy but we can choose whether to pursue further education or break into the workforce and what field that we want to work in. We can't change our upbringing but we can decide how we respond to that in terms of shaping our own lives. We can't change our family but we have some control over the relationship we have with them and indeed the other relationships we maintain and nurture.
We choose what kind of people to surround ourselves with and how to respond to people in environments where we do not have a choice of our company. We can't choose when or if we meet somebody we want to share our lives with but we have control over the kind of person we are before we meet them which in turn, I think then impacts who the right fit for you will be. Maybe we have inherited a disorder or condition but for a lot of us we have control over our health and our bodies.
The big one
But by now I think you are probably starting to be suspicious that I haven't yet mentioned the big one or the big guy: God.
As I said earlier, we probably had no control over whether we went to church as youngsters but one way or another all of us have been called to be at least investigate further into this Christianity business. Maybe you're just getting to know God, maybe you're thinking about getting to know God or maybe he's been around your whole life but even then I suspect you feel like you're only just getting to know him. So pretty much we are all in the same boat. But this fact in itself changes the rules of our "game of life".
It means that at every stage, whenever we have a life card we need to draw, we have the option to "consult our faith". The Spiritual equivalent of using a lifeline, except you can never use them up. And to mix metaphors, like in "who wants to be a millionaire", there are three main options. Instead of phoning a friend, asking the audience or the 50/50, as Christians we have prayer, the bible and our faith community:
Three awesome, readily available, endless resources to inform all of our decisions. I'm not suggesting that these things can make your life decisions for you, but like the lifelines they can help narrow down the options.
Also, in accepting God as a permanent passenger in your little car as you navigate the board, you have identified that you already have a purpose in life, separate and even more important than your career path. And that is to follow Jesus, loving (though I'm going to add for my own benefit not necessarily liking) everyone and being a positive influence in your world. In fact God is not the passenger; he is the driver, a taxi driver perhaps.
He provides the vehicle and the knowledge and we can call on him to help navigate us where we need to go. Actually a better way to put it is that he is our Navman seeing as he doesn't charge us by the mile or leave a metre running. And you will inevitably have an experience where you've entered in yours destination only to be baffled why you keep being told to take the next left because you thought that you had a pretty good idea of the best route to take anyway and it definitely involved staying on the motorway for a little longer. But taking that scenic route may cause us to stumble upon a vocation we didn't know existed, meet people we wouldn't have otherwise met or help somebody who needed us.
When I take a step back from the day to day decisions I am confronted with and think about what I want out of life, I find that they have little to do with each other. At the moment I am stressed about finishing University in a few weeks and coming face to face with my student loan. I am wondering where I should be looking for work and how that will impact where I will end up in five years or so.
Yet if you asked me outright what I want my life to look like in say 10 years I would answer that I want to be healthy and happy and doing something I enjoy. Notice I didn't say I want to be earning lots of money from doing something I enjoy. I didn't say I want to be this high up on the corporate ladder. Not that ambition is bad or that having goals is bad.
But I think that Christians should already be living with the awareness that there is more to life. For all the challenges that being a young Christian brings we are more than repaid in the tools that God provides us with or "lifelines" as I called them earlier. Not to mention the knowledge that we are the objects of his undying love. With that kind of commitment, His is the most important relationship for us to nurture and preserve through this Game of Life.
Helen McIntosh is a recent graduate of Victoria University of Wellington's English and Theatre programme. She loves being active and appreciates the productivity that having deadlines can bring.
Helen McIntosh previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html