Slowing Down to Speed Up: Halo 5 and the Path to Halo:Infinite (Exodus 23:29-30)

We are mere weeks away from the 2019 E3 Expo, and a slew of announcements regarding our favorite games and franchises are right around the corner.  Some will be surprising, some will be revolutionary, and some will probably just be another Call of Duty.  But as we salivate over the thought of seeing what the future holds for the world of gaming it seemed right to me to go back to a few games that were gathering dust on the shelf and refresh myself on them before their next iteration unfolds.  And this is why Halo 5 is in my Xbox right now… a game I unfortunately didn’t give much time to when it came out.  With news on the latest adventures of our beloved Master Chief bound to be revealed shortly I decided to give the multiplayer mode of Halo 5 a little attention for the first time… and I learned a few critical things about myself in the process.

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Like most modern multiplayer shooters, Halo 5 equips your Spartan with the ability to regenerate health and armor simply by standing still for a short period of time without taking further damage.  Now, in the real world, that is unlikely to be a great strategy if you are experiencing the type of blood loss that these space marines are facing.  If you are just walking through the park one day and suddenly you are struck in the face with a glowing energy sword, I would highly encourage you to proceed immediately to the nearest urgent care or ER.  Standing very still behind a tree is not likely to improve your situation.  But in Halo, your mere lack of movement seems to be sufficient to raise your shields AND heal any damage caused by taking a laser rifle bolt to the chin.

Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why we wait SO LONG in waiting rooms at the doctor’s office.  Perhaps the doctors and nurses are huge fans of Halo and are thinking that maybe your respiratory infection will get better if we just sit still in an uncomfortable chair and read outdated magazines long enough.  But either way, this “regeneration-based” gameplay mechanic has presented me with an uncomfortable mirror in which to view myself.  See, I am not the most patient player in the world, and every second that I am not actively chasing an opponent down feels like an ETERNITY.  Stopping to allow my shields to recharge is PAINFUL.  It just seems like so much important stuff is going on around me while I am just sitting here passively wasting away.  Honestly, I feel like I am letting my team down as well as myself when I am not actively contributing, and instead I am just a coward hiding in a corner waiting for my wounds to heal.  My lack of forward progress feels like I am only active at failing.  But more often than not, I have found that if I DON’T wait and allow my circumstances to improve I am only a liability to myself as well as my comrades.

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I will give you an example.  At one point I was racing around a small multiplayer map with a gravity hammer and had been experiencing a fair amount of success with it.  Unfortunately the last enemy I encountered had “felt a certain kind of way” about being smashed with a giant hammer and had let my shields and health know it through a barrage of bullets that left me on the verge of death.  In my weakened state, the wisest course of action was to slow down and allow my health to recharge before diving in for more.  And while I was fully aware of the importance of going back into battle with full health, I could not resist the siren call of the multiple red dots on my screen indicating ACTION was nearby.  I blasted towards the sound of bullets and explosions expecting to catch my foes by surprise and overwhelm them with my sheer audacity.  Much to my chagrin, they were not overwhelmed.  They weren’t even WHELMED.

As the dust settled on my freshly exploded carcass, I would like to say that I sat and pondered my reckless strategy and reflected on where it went wrong.  I would LIKE to say that.  But instead I blasted forward immediately after respawning with the intent to pay them back.  Surely they wouldn’t see THIS brazen offensive coming.  Well… the plasma pistol I spawned with was no match for the four well-prepared adversaries I ran into, and once again I received the opportunity to count the seconds until my return and reconsider the importance of a slower, but wiser, path to the finish line.

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Many times in life we reach this point of seeming futility.  No outward signs of massive progress, no giant rain clouds in the sky when we were PROMISED an abundance of rain… just the slow and steady drip of each day imperceptibly moving us mere centimeters closer to the finish line.   It is incredibly frustrating when you can palpably feel your sense of purpose, your raw naked destiny just hanging there like a fruit ready to be plucked from a tree… but nothing is happening.  Maybe it’s a job you interviewed for that would be PERFECT for you… but the phone stubbornly refuses to ring.  Sometimes it’s an opportunity or idea that you know would be HUGE if you could just get your viral moment or some financing to grow it… but the world simply ignores your ground-breaking concept.  It can be a relationship, a personal struggle, or literally any area of your life in which you can see the bright glow of victory so clearly in the distance that you can TASTE it, but it simply won’t materialize yet.

In the book of Exodus, Moses found himself in the very same place.  After a narrow escape from slavery in Egypt and a frosty reception from the local inhabitants of their new land, the people of Israel were staring into their new future.  The Promised Land.  The land of dreams… the destiny that they had been working towards for hundreds of years.  It was right there in front of them waiting to be taken.  There was only one teensie-weensie problem.   The Promised Land was currently occupied by people who were going to be less than enthused at the prospect of being mowed down and pushed out of their current residence. A lot of conflict was ahead.  But before Moses and the Israeli people could even start planning for conquest, God had a plan that was bound to ruffle some feathers…

Exodus 23:29-30 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 

Hmph.  Let me get this right.  Even though the Lord was perfectly capable of wiping them out with a snap of his fingers, Thanos style, He was actively choosing not to.   Not because He was being cruel, and not even for some object lesson they needed to learn.  No, it was much more simple than that.  Their lack of capacity for tending to the land at this stage would have ended with them inheriting a land that was infertile and uninhabitable.  They had big dreams and ambitions, but they didn’t have the means to sustain all that they envisioned yet.  So instead they would receive their victory piece by agonizing piece… slowly, steadily, until they were in a position to truly inhabit it.

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It did not mean it was not theirs to claim.  It was simply a matter of practicality.  God was not going to give them a land that they were not yet in a position to sustain.  Possessing the entire land in one shot without having the infrastructure in place to support it would have devastated the entire country. They had to slowly grow into their new role as stewards of this land.  And so it is with us… The Lord has a deliberate plan for a slow, steady, step by step process that will end with us exactly where we belong at the exact time we belong there.  But in the meantime the movement forward will often be SLOW.

I will freely admit that I do not enjoy slow progress.  When I am making a batch of brownies and realize it will be THIRTY WHOLE MINUTES until they come out of the oven, I think about my past self thirty minutes ago and wish he had been more proactive so I could have brownies right NOW. But partially cooked brownies are simply not as good as the finished product.  That slow process is what makes them so good, and if you have ever compared microwave brownies to oven baked you know what I’m talking about.  Similarly, the Bible tells us in Zachariah 4:10  “Do not despise small beginnings”.  Whatever your dream or vision is, your slow or seemingly non-existent progress is not an indication that the answer to your prayers remains out of reach.  And the fact that your adversaries still possess what you were promised only means that they are actively cultivating what YOU will inherit when the day and time is right.

I am now at the stage of my life where I can see quite clearly in the rear view mirror how many times my lack of perceived progress was actually the presence of God insuring I was in a position to truly succeed in what He had planned for me.  He showed His kindness and wisdom by forcing me to stop and allow my shields to fully recharge so I would not fail at my next conflict.  He insures that we possess the necessary mental, physical, and spiritual bandwidth before we are placed into a position that would demand such things from us.  His grace allows us to fight these battles slowly, intentionally, and gradually.  He is preparing us through these seemingly unnecessary tragedies, setbacks, and mundane daily activities for the destiny and future that your heart received from Him.

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Our culture is inundated with the expectation for everything to happen NOW.  We can’t even wait for fast food anymore… we order it on our phone so it is ready for us to grab and walk out without waiting those long, painful three minutes for our hamburger to be microwaved.  I see infomercials promising IMMEDIATE results on weight loss or the removal of blemishes, investors guaranteeing RAPID and EXPONENTIAL return on your investments, and most disturbingly preachers informing us that our destiny is NOW and we can have everything that God has for us RIGHT NOW.  Usually for the low, low “suggested” offering of $49.99 for their book or DVD series.  David was promised to become the king as a boy but he did not achieve that promise until he turned 30 and had endured an incredibly harsh path to get there.  Even Jesus had to wait thirty years in relative obscurity before He took the first steps into His earthly ministry.  While the Lord can certainly do anything He wants in any amount of time, as we saw in Exodus He has a more sustainable route for most circumstances.  Slow, patient, steady growth until you are in a position to receive all that He has for you.

I am learning that when playing Halo I am at my best when I have a full complement of health and armor before I take on my next opponent.  That slow regeneration of health puts me in the best position to be successful in whatever is waiting around the next corner.  And similarly, the Lord absolutely has plans to prosper each and every one of us, but He doesn’t usually do it by dumping a pile of lottery winnings into our laps.  We wouldn’t necessarily be the best stewards of something we received without any sacrifice to achieve it.  Instead, He slows us down enough to truly grow through each successive experience in our lives, lovingly investing into us through the blood, sweat and tears of gradual progression.  And then, when it is time, we are able to confidently and boldly walk into our destiny knowing that this was what we were being prepared for all along. See you in the arena….

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