Broken Without a Cause… A Life Lesson Learned From Buggy and Glitchy Games (Ezekiel 24:15-27)

What a mess… WWE2K20 launched with all of the usual fanfare that a major annual release from a venerable franchise would demand, and simply failed to stick the landing.  Marred by game-breaking bugs and hilariously distracting glitches, consumer uproar was immediate and massive, prompting Sony to begin issuing refunds to those who had purchased the game digitally.  Now you would be fair in asking, “Was it really that bad?  After all, many games require day one patches in order to resolve late bugs in the development process.”  That would be a very reasonable question to ask.  And to that, I will simply answer with this…

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That happened and it cannot be unseen.  I cannot even begin to explain what is occurring there.  And this is only the tip of the iceberg on a game that completely defies the laws of physics, anatomy, and basic skeletal structure in ways that I cannot even try to describe.  Suffice to say, it’s pretty broken.  But to be fair, buggy and glitchy games are nothing new.  Even some or our most beloved titles such as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have had more than their fair share of flying mammoths.  And what Ubisoft or Bioware title would be complete without most of their characters failing to load their faces properly (or at all?)?  It’s honestly something that we as gamers have not only grown to accept, but to expect as well.  The games that we love often come to us in flawed and broken condition, and while we wait for them to get fixed we just have to find a way to make the best of it.

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In our video games, we understand that each title is crafted by a large team of people, often times across multiple continents, all racing to meet challenging deadlines and deliver a playable product by a specific release date.  And as a result, the pressures of delivering these “larger-than-life” experiences under the pressure cooker combination of a ticking clock and budget constraints often land us with something that is less than what we originally thought we were getting.  We expect (rightfully so) a polished, finished product for our hard-earned dollars, but since we are dealing with fallible people operating in settings that can be less than ideal, we often get something that looks more like this…

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Imperfect people operating in sub-optimal environments under high pressure tend to yield flawed results.  In our video games this can often be fixed with a patch or an update offered later on down the line, and most developers are quite urgent to attending to such game-breaking bugs as these.  Eventually, the issues tend to get fixed within a few weeks, the tension dies down, and all of these glitches end up becoming silly internet memes or funny videos that we can all laugh at.  In our real lives, it is not so simple.

As a believer in Christ I have found that one of the most challenging areas in life I have faced is when these game-breaking bugs appear in my day-to-day struggles and the Lord does not answer my cries for help in the way I desire.  I am sure we have all experienced our own individual “broken game” scenarios… when life is simply not fair and seems to be singling us out for punishment unrelated to our own individual choices.

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To clarify, I am not talking about the negative consequences of our own decisions.  If you do not fill your car up with gas, it was not an act of God that caused you to run out of fuel on the side of the road.  That was simply poor planning and perhaps paying more attention to the song playing on the stereo than to the gauges on your dashboard.  No, I’m talking about those negative situations in life beyond our ability to influence… the tragedies that aim to define us that we had no control over.   Loved ones who pass away unexpectedly, horrific illnesses or injuries, or the evil actions of another person/group of people who harm us physically, emotionally, or even spiritually.  These are the pains that bring our game to a sudden halt, causing us to wonder if we can even recover and go on.

Regardless of our beliefs at the time of occurrence, these terrible, unavoidable, unpredictable events can challenge even the deepest and most grounded faith.  Many times when I attempt to share my beliefs with someone who does not serve Christ I find that they are often stuck behind a “glitched” wall in life… a border they cannot cross because of circumstances that were out of their control.  Their frustration with attempting to accept the presence of a perfect God standing in the shadow of their very obvious pain can be one of the most difficult conversations to participate in.  All of those empty platitudes… “God is in control”… “God has a plan”… “It will all make sense someday”… this doesn’t take away the pain, and it doesn’t address the root cause issue of the problem.

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Let’s take an INCREDIBLY challenging portion of Scripture and see what we can glean  from it.  The prophet Ezekiel was a faithful and godly man who had served the Lord during an incredibly dark time for his country.  He was gifted with almost exclusively unpopular messages and bad news to share with his people, and yet in spite of this burden he delivered each message obediently.  So what was his reward for all of this?  Let’s take a look…

Ezekiel 24:15-18 Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind your turban on your head, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow. ”So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died; and the next morning I did as I was commanded.

This is almost incomprehensible.  God took his wife from him… not because he had sinned, not because of poor choices she had made, but simply because He SAID SO.  That, in and of itself, is already hard to digest.  But to add another exponential layer of darkness to this sad event, Ezekiel was not even provided the luxury of mourning his beloved wife and flooding his pillow with tears.  No grieving, no sadness, not even a day off from work.  Just moving on.   And before you start to think maybe this is one of those scenarios like the story of Job where he loses everything and gets it all back in the end… NOPE.  She is gone, she does not come back, and we never hear of Ezekiel remarrying.  I think this kind of encapsulates my initial reaction to this…

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Let’s keep it real.  There are some things that happen in life that simply cannot be repaired.  A majority of the time the dead do not come back to life… the broken things don’t always get fixed and the lost things don’t always get replaced.  Even as believers, there are no guarantees that our paths will be full of rainbows and butterflies.  Trauma and drama are simply the hallmarks of a life lived on a fallen earth, populated by imperfect people making poor choices.  So then why does God not only allow, but in some occasions like we read in Ezekiel, DESIGN these moments for us to endure?  The Apostle Paul echoes some of these notes as he recounts the pain and suffering he and many of his friends in the faith have endured…

1 Corinthians 4:9, 11-13 For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.

It’s been a minute since I have done this, but I want you to look at the word “spectacle” in that sentence.  In the original Greek text it is the word “theatron”.  Take a wild guess if you think you know what that means… If you guessed it’s where we get our English word “theater” from, you nailed it.  It literally means “the public display of putting someone on exhibit”.  It’s time for us to shoot straight on the reality of broken dreams, shattered lives, and damaged people both within and outside of the body of Christ.  We have to stop putting a fake smile over real pain and pushing down problems simply because we don’t understand them.  It’s insulting to those who are suffering, and it rings hollow when we do it to ourselves.

From the Old Testament through the New Testament and to this very day, bad things are happening all over the planet.  And while some of these broken roads may lead us to our happily ever after, there are some (like in the case of Ezekiel) that were designed for the purpose of a spectacle… an exhibit for all to see.  We are a living theater designed to provide proof to all who are watching that we CAN hold fast to our faith and cling to our love and service to God even when the worst comes to pass.  It’s easy to serve Him when He is showering you with blessings… but when others see your courage and conviction in the midst of excruciating pain then they know your faith is REAL.  We aren’t meant to hide our pain or pretend like everything is okay… we are called to display our scars, proudly revealing our faith in Christ even through the worst that life can throw at us.

I hope this encourages you in a few ways… if you are a believer but you struggle to understand the ways of the Lord, you are not alone.  But we cannot hide these struggles or we remove half of our victory over the devil.  In Revelation 12:11 it says that we triumph over the enemy by the blood of Christ AND the word of our TESTIMONY.  Not the testimony of a fake “Kumbaya” lifestyle that isn’t real, but by testifying of His unending love THROUGH our darkest times.  The bugs are real and the glitches may not be going anywhere… but this life is only one part of our story.

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