What makes two boys pull weeds, take out the trash, and clean up their bedraggled room?…Allowance, Quarters, Pizza, and Video games!
A newly gained stack of quarters was resting upon the glass of a table-top video game exactly in the middle of two middle-school aged boys. Each was clutching the crème de la crème of every boy’s weekly dietary “must haves”, a delicious slice of folded New York Style Pizza from Paolo’s Pizza as we settled into our opposing chairs. My brother grabbed a quarter from the enormous pile of hard-earned chore money and he carefully placed the amount of coins for a two player game into the machine. Without looking down at our hands, we both instantly found the joystick with the adroitness of someone sight-impaired and waited for that little treat, the melodious MIDI-file tune that always kicked off the start of every game. Marc was up first but, we both stared through that glass with x-ray like vision that denoted the utmost concentration. I continued to take large bites of that wondrous slice of heaven while my brother quickly noshed the last chew he would get until his turn was over.
There was a nervous anticipation in the air around us; a hesitation that the both of us felt within us and which seemed like an unholy amount of time before the video game ran its program. Suddenly, our concentration took a jolt as the starting music ended and that unmistakeable sound blasted from the cheap speaker inside the table-top: “Wahka, wahka, wahka, wahka.”
That world-famous yellow circle with the slice of pie missing from it named Pac-Man, began to eat the pellets and work its circuitous way throughout the maze. If you were lucky, all the power-ups were used, each ghost was vanquished, every dancing fruit was consumed, and each pellet was cleared from the electronic screen advancing you to the next level.
The only discernible movement you could detect from either of us once the game began, was the darting of our eyes as we followed the character to and fro. I mean, we were totally engrossed in that game! How engrossed you say? Let me put it this way. If Santa Claus was outside that pizza shop handing out brand new Atari consoles and hundred dollar bills, while standing next to Willy Wonka who also was giving out shiny golden tickets as he searched for the next generation of “Charlie”, we would have been totally oblivious to it. This game was important to us…for this game was for “High Score” status.
Protocols must be met when a “High Score” attempt is made. This is the one time you didn’t mess with your brother, or tease him, give him a “wedgie”, or anything else childish. This was serious business… and a modicum of “high brow” morality must be maintained during the “attempt”. So, I sat there in total silence as my brother made what would hopefully be, his mark on this machine with the three letters that every person possessed and few held dear – their initials. Those tri-important letters of our English language, held great importance when inscribed on a video game screen. It said that G.W.S was number one, D.R.C made it to the second spot and F.L.M just squeaked in the top three completing the “holy trinity” of gamers that had mastered that machine for that week. Therefore, as you can clearly see, an attempt of high score should always be treated with reverence and the utmost respect.
My memory fails me, but I think he did get high score and we both pedaled our Schwins home in triumph.
Today, I find myself cradling a Wii remote with thumbs flailing this way and that as I crush the “A” button and “1” and “2” ones as well. Now let me point out, that at my house, Super Mario Brothers is serious business. We just have to get all the golden coins, power-ups, and 1up’s possible until you find yourself at the end with Mario or Luigi sitting high atop the flagpole. The whole family gets involved; wife, son and I.
It probably doesn’t need to be stated that my 9 year old is the best “Mario” in our household. He seems to always be ahead of my wife and I due to that excellent hand-eye coordination that children seem to be blessed with. I will be ahead and just getting my Luigi positioned under that block with the question mark on it, when out of nowhere my son’s Mario snatches it away and is now almost off screen before I even notice it has happened. The most embarrassing thing about the whole deal is that I have to hear: “Dad, you need to practice this level so we can rescue Princess Peach!”. Alright, alright son, I know I stink. I mean, does he have to send those not-so-subtle messages to his dear old dad?
One day…I made it a point to impress him. I had one mission that day: To get him to compliment me on my newly-acquired gaming skills. So I practiced. I read up on a couple of Nintendo websites to learn some tricks. I mean…I put some serious effort into this whole affair.
I stealthily waited for my son to come home from school one day cradling the Wii remote already. I had the system fired up and I was on pins and needles until he burst through the front door. My eyebrow raised as his eyes met mine when the door exploded open.
No words needed to be exchanged as my son threw his backpack mercilessly on the floor and sat next to me with his own white colored remote. I chose the two player mode and waited for the music to begin which signified the start of this “serious” game. My resolve hardened as my mission was not going to be thwarted; this boy was gonna compliment my newly found skills or I was going to crash and burn….there was no other choice. So, you can see, I meant business.
The level began and in my mind I was already a few moves ahead as I expectantly waited for the part of the game where I was going to dazzle; showing off my new “move”.
Ok, almost there….Bang…Jump…Shimmy.. and Wow, super move now pulled off. The wall-jump of a lifetime has been flawlessly executed and I dropped my remote on the ground and stared in silence at my son waiting with assurance for the accolades that were to come.
I stared at his face while his gaze was fixed upon the T.V. screen as he continued his play. Silence… An eternity went by and no praise came out of his mouth. I was dumbfounded at his non-response to my gaming greatness. Then, out of the side of his mouth I heard the dreaded words that I feared most: “Duh, Dad. Everybody knows how to “Wall Jump”.
What? Was my son kidding!? I spent two hours on some Nintendo Super Gaming site just learning this move! Ugh, my son was underwhelmed with my gaming prowess once again. What’s a Dad to do?
As I was recalling this story earlier in the week, I was reminded of the grace God has for everyone. We can’t ever earn that grace. We won’t be able to do anything so impressive that God says: “Wow, you really earned that one! Here ya go, your incredible efforts earned you this blessing.” We just don’t measure up; no matter how pure we think the effort we make is. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(Romans 3:23).
When I thought about this a little more, I remembered how I went about my life in my earlier years in the Lord. I was so full of vim and vigor. I was very gifted in some areas and I was your typical Type A personality. I was going to do something BIG for the Lord; even if He didn’t call me to do it. I would work and strive “making” my big dream come true. Therefore, I went about chore after chore and did a bunch of things in my own power. You see, I was mentally tough but spiritually weak because I really didn’t want to trust in Him for everything. If God wasn’t too quick on that blessing, then I was going to make it speed up. So, I went about in my earlier days bearing little fruit and being quite empty inside.
The events of my horrific accident changed all that. Now, I am in a position of having to ask the Lord for strength to get through my day and for the smallest of things. I spend most of my time seeking His face in everything because I have to. I don’t possess the abilities to “make” it happen on my own anymore. I am no longer fettered with worry, anxiety, and unrest that things aren’t moving in the direction I would like them to. Now, I rest in His peace as I allow the Grace that Jesus lavished upon me to take hold.
The bible says: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”-2 Corinthians 9:8(ESV)
It took me a while to truly understand the verse above as God was teaching me. I will most certainly have to come back to it from time to time as well. After a few years, I am beginning to figure out that I need to trust that God’s plan is more than sufficient for my life. His will needs to abound in my life so that I might be able to do the work that He has planned for me to do. And when I fail, His grace and forgiveness are there for me too.
If you feel your life is being spent trying to pile up good works, allow the Lord to speak to you about where you are at. You may be trying to earn grace while not being sufficient and content with what you know is the Lord’s plan for your life.
Also, if this post finds you at a very weak time in your life, let the verse below speak to you and point you back to the loving arms of Jesus.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”-2 Corinthians 12:9(ESV)
No poem today. I wanted the Spirit of God to speak to you through the story.
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The Great Plains Poet, conquering life’s “game” with the grace of God I couldn’t buy.
God bless you all.