When you think of great games and your favorite parts of them, a few things come to mind. Interesting characters with realistic dialogue, incredible graphics that transport you to another place or time, and an epic soundtrack that sweeps you up into a story that grips you from the title screen to the closing credits. We celebrate dynamic combat systems and physics engines that duplicate reality, but for years there has been an unheralded but incredibly necessary part of our gaming experiences that makes up an important backbone of most games… the inventory system. It’s not exciting, and in many games it may look like a poor man’s version of Oregon’s Trail, but it is necessary and when executed correctly adds depth to the strategy and decisions that ultimately determine how your experience plays out.
For years our protagonists operated without a concern for how the size or weight of the physical items they were carrying would impact them. They could carry infinite amounts of weapons, food, keys, or other equipment without any regard to how this would burden them from running, jumping, and fighting their way through the level. But finally game developers caught up with the limits of the bottomless duffel bag, the infinite wallet, or the absurdity of a character somehow carrying fourteen rocket launchers in their pockets. For goodness sakes, I am pretty sure as I was wandering around in Oblivion I was carrying at least 60 different 500 page tomes while climbing mountains and swimming through rivers. Fun certainly, but not terribly realistic.
Games finally began to launch with real inventory management systems which began creating limits to the size and weight of what a gaming character could lug around with them while traversing their planet of choice. Players finally had to make some hard choices… should I carry more healing items or make room for some heavy weaponry? What can I sacrifice so I can carry this necessary quest item I just found? With limited capacity the decisions that are made to determine what is necessary versus what is superfluous are vital, and the wrong choice in a game may result in mission failure but the consequences in how we deal with our limited capacity as real-life human beings can be much farther reaching in their impact.
In 2 Kings 4 we find a widowed woman in a state of crisis. With her husband deceased and her family severely indebted, this poor woman’s two sons were about to be placed into slavery in order to pay off the debt that the struggling family had incurred. The prophet Elisha asked her what her current capacity to pay off her debt was, and she was limited to only a small vessel of oil. Elisha instructed her to get as many containers, pitchers, bowls, and whatever else she could get her hands on from friends and neighbors and specified that these must be EMPTY. Once she had gathered them together, she was instructed to fill them with the oil that she currently possessed. She continued pouring until she ran out of empty containers to fill, and when it was done she had enough oil to sell to pay off her debt and even live off the rest. A remarkable miracle to be certain… but what does this mean to us?
Let me keep it real for a minute. I tend to read my Bible on my phone because it is convenient and it is typically with me at all times. But this can be a snare as much as a convenience, because on this very same device that houses an app that opens up a digital version of God’s Word lies all of the distractions that threaten to fill my vessel with anything other than his oil. Emails pop-up compelling action, text messages bombard me with a variety of requests ranging from the urgent to the pointless, and sometimes, on very rare occasions this object that is still technically considered a “phone” actually completes its original purpose and rings with an incoming phone call. Probably just someone offering yet another week-long cruise that surely has no negative repercussions as long as I act now…
I would like to say I come to the Lord with an empty vessel for Him to fill, but more often than not I am already packed full of thoughts, items, and a menagerie of tasks that prevent me from having an inventory screen that He can actually fill. And sadly enough, I often treat my time like my loadout in a video game, meaning I simply cut items out to make space for the presence of the One that I claim is the most important of all in my life. I drop a few meaningless items from my bag (maybe some time surfing the web or reading the back of a box of cereal) and add some time with God in its place. And then I wonder why I carry such a heavy burden and feel so little of God’s presence, love, and joy in my day-to-day life.
When I ask the Lord for more of His presence in my life I remember that it is critical to note… the widowed woman in 2 Kings 4 was not provided more oil than what her capacity was to contain it. When she reached the limits of her vessels, she reached the limit of the oil. Many times I reach out to God in prayer and ask Him for guidance, wisdom, or provision, but when I don’t provide an empty vessel for Him to fill I limit His ability to answer my prayers and requests. And the oil He plans to use is readily available to me in the form of His Word, but it only truly activates when it is poured into an empty vessel prepared to receive it.
The more space I make for Him in my daily life, the more He will be able to pour into me and pour out through me to others. So before you ask God to be more present in your life, you must truly look deep into your inventory and ensure you have made space for Him to appear. If you feel like you can’t hear what the Lord has to say, consider if you have too much in your way to give Him the room that He needs. If you make room for the oil first, you will find that it absorbs into everything else that you are carrying…