There are certain consistent laws within the world of gaming that are not written in any tech manual nor are they engraved on stone tablets hidden somewhere in Silicon Valley, but they exist nonetheless. For example, it is a universal law that all gaming villains must have a burning need to import wooden boxes and explosive barrels in massive quantities and scatter them liberally wherever they go without rhyme or reason. (And of course exploding barrels should be placed directly next to large concentrations of troops or critical load-bearing walls, because, well… you know… reasons.)
But more than any of the other NUMEROUS standard gaming tropes (protagonist conveniently has amnesia, the villain was once your best friend, your princess is in another castle, etc.) there is ALWAYS one constant. One law that cannot be broken. And that rule is … drum roll please… no matter how skilled you are, and no matter how well you play all of the mini-games…. all Mario Party games hate you and will absolutely steal all your stars for no good reason right before the end of the game. Now maybe that is just MY experience over the course of over 10 Mario Party games and counting, but I have a sneaking feeling I am not alone here.
I am a life-long Mario aficionado, and I have faithfully purchased EACH AND EVERY Mario Party console game across each and every platform they were released on in the hopes that THIS will be the time we will achieve balance in the Force. When played with your family or a group of friends Mario Party is crazy fun, and well worth repeated play. But if you are that poor, lonely soul who is attempting to play it solo or if you are trying to unlock certain features by playing against the computer AI… you are hopelessly doomed to the curse of having all of your hard work erased by one unlucky roll of the dice.
It never fails… I will set every AI player to the lowest possible difficulty setting (on the intelligence scale something between carpet fiber and taco shell) and proceed to dominate the mini games and collect star after star in my chase for the prize. And then… it HAPPENS. Lying before me are LITERALLY twenty safe spaces that I can happily land on and Toad will bring me cookies and milk while Yoshi gives me a deep cranial massage. All but ONE numerical combination is completely and utterly safe. Nestled inconspicuously in the middle of all those pleasant, happy, non-controller throwing spaces is the one space I cannot afford to land on… the Bowser space of doom. There is literally only one roll of the dice that will land me on that terrible space, but like a moth drawn to its fatal flame my dice roll has only one number on its mind.
The dice roll of doom commences, my character gleefully marches to his destruction, Bowser stomps me into oblivion and gives me negative stars while lavishing untold riches and unearned praise on all of my competitors, and the cycle of Mario Party robbery perpetuates for another day. As the rubber band nature of the game insures that once again I snatch defeat from the jaws of certain victory, I am left considering how my utter domination in all of the mini games and superior strategy in board movement was obliterated in one moment. My prowess simply did not prevent me from succumbing to the inevitable… the free will of the computer AI to completely alter my happily ever after into yet another nightmarish loss.
Over many of our previous articles we have reviewed the biblical precedent on surviving and overcoming loss in many forms, and I have found myself reflected in each of these cases of loss at some point or another in my life. But simply relating to each of these lives and the challenges they faced is not the purpose of reviewing these circumstances. Sure, it is nice to know that others have felt the same way that we are feeling, and it is very important to learn from their stories so we can overcome these challenges positively and productively in our own lives. But to treat the Bible as just another self-help book is to miss the point entirely. It is a GOD-help book, and it exists to guide us in our understanding of Him. So to dig a bit deeper it is time to dive into the most well-known and least understood Being who has experienced loss… God the Father Himself.
To be honest, it almost seems sacrilegious and borderline blasphemous to consider the idea of God losing anything. I mean, He’s God, right? The Creator of all things, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Lord? How can He possibly experience loss? The truth is that He was the first to experience the pain of heartbreak, betrayal, and loss before mankind ever came on the scene, and He has been getting hit with losses ever since. Not sure what I’m talking about? Time to explore…
Ezekiel 28:11-15 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God:
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
In Ezekiel 28:11-19 we find the prophet Ezekiel being directed by God to take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, but it becomes clear very quickly that this is no mere flesh and blood human that is being described here. This Scripture is pointing to the being behind the earthly king, Lucifer himself. Let’s break this down… our subject is described as the “seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. ” He was in Eden, the garden of God. He is described as being covered with every precious stone and his voice is described as having being “prepared for him on the day he was created”. This was a hand-crafted being of surpassing excellence, the “anointed cherub”. Bear in mind this entire section of Scripture is defined as a LAMENTATION. In Hebrew this word qinah means a dirge… a sad and melancholy song of loss that is used to mourn either a death or impending doom. God is instructing Ezekiel to record this bitter melody that comes straight from the broken heart of God.
God’s best and brightest creation, the one He personally crafted and designed flawlessly, decided in Isaiah 14:12-14 to raise himself up and lead a rebellion against His loving Creator. And he gave the Lord no choice but to punish him and cast him out of heaven, taking one-third of his fellow angels with him on the way out. Before Adam took his first breath, God had already lost a third of his created beings and the one he had placed in the most prominent position, the one He called “the son of the morning”. The fall of Lucifer clearly hurt, but this was only the beginning of the pain for our Lord.
He created a man and a woman and placed them in a perfect world, and they too rebelled and in short order He lost His previously untarnished relationship with His children. Because of their foolish choices, man lost authority over the planet God had given him and gave it directly to Lucifer, the fallen angel turned enemy of God. Years later the Father selected one nation (Israel) to be His own special chosen people, and He lost his fellowship with them more times than I can count. And finally, when He sent His Son down to make peace between God and man, well… He lost Him too because we crucified Him.
Our Creator’s story is one of experiencing more tragic losses than one human lifetime can possibly imagine. The losses we experience in this life actually brings us closer to understanding the nature, the character, and the very heartbeat of God more than anything else we experience. The truth is the love story of the Creator and His creation is a story filled with a whole lot of losing. He lost his angels, His first man and woman, His chosen children, His planet…. His Son. And it is THROUGH our losing that something truly amazing happens: God RELATES to us. The same Jesus who wept over Lazarus, the same Father who wrote a lamentation over the loss of his angels, the same Holy Spirit who is grieved by our actions… He feels ALL of the same feelings that we do. He has been feeling them for all eternity. He understands loneliness, betrayal, heartbreak, separation… all of these and so much more. And when we experience these times in our lives our loving Father can put His arm around you and truly say, “I understand. I have been hurt the same way, too”.
Realizing we serve a God who fully relates to us is the most important of all of these lessons to learn. And once we fully grasp that, we can begin to make progress on what the true plan of God is for each of us. He didn’t send His Son just to save us from hell, though that is an awesome part of the benefit package. And He didn’t send Him just so He could bring us to heaven, although that’s also part of the deal. He made mankind, and YOU specifically, for a RELATIONSHIP. He sent His Son to restore that broken relationship by reconciling the sin problem that separated us from a Holy God.
He is seeking that relationship with each of us. The painful and seemingly unnecessary losses we experience in life help us understand Him better and grow closer to Him. He is available right now, and He is asking us to place our trembling hands into His nail-scarred palms.
He has felt our pain. He has cried our tears. He has lost in all of the same ways and far deeper than any of us will ever know or comprehend. He has been cheated on and betrayed, lied about and lied to, beaten and murdered, hated and mocked…. He truly understands, and He relates to everything we will ever go through. And now He is reaching out to each and every one of us with nail-scarred hands, asking us to give our lives fully and truly to Him. Not merely in an abandoning, “Here you go Jesus, see what you can do with this mess because I have no idea what I am doing” sort of way. But in an active, intentional, daily relationship between two hearts that grow together… not only when things are good, but through the winning AND the losing, too.
I pray more than anything else that this helps you reassess the nature of your relationship with your Creator just as it has challenged mine. While it is still a work in progress, I am finally coming to understand that not only do these challenging times all serve a greater purpose, but they actually help me truly understand my Lord… maybe for the first time. I am finding that it is not always my circumstances that needs to change, but my viewpoint on them. In the eco-system of the Kingdom of Heaven, it takes LOSING your life to find it (Matthew 10:39). It takes coming in LAST place to truly take first prize (Matthew 20:16). By an outsider’s definition, followers of Christ have chosen a losing path and follow a God who not only allows this, but is an active participant in our losses. Jesus Christ is the Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). And He wants to grow closer in relationship with us THOROUGH our tragedies and setbacks. He aspires to be more than our Provider, even though He surely is that. And Savior is certainly in His job description, but that was not why He made us. That’s how He bought us back. Let your sorrow, your grief, your disappointment and your pain push you into the arms of the One who truly understands.
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