To Stack or Not to Stack?: That is the “Death Stranding” Question (Luke 12:22-31)

The game is FINALLY out, the reviews are in, and… well, we still don’t quite know what to make of it. Death Stranding, Hideo Kojima’s latest and most mysterious magnum opus, is certainly a game that deserves it’s own categorization.  Breathtakingly beautiful and unique, it defies standard gaming conventions and makes a statement that the journey IS in fact the destination by forcing the player to become the most in-shape delivery person on the planet.  You will walk through gorgeous landscapes, traverse through monster infested plains, and then… well… then you will walk some more.  And more.  Also MORE.  There is SO much walking.  And you aren’t JUST walking, you are also CARRYING.  Not just STUFF, but also THINGS.  Stuff and things that you have to PHYSICALLY carry, making this not only a walking simulator but also a delivery simulator.  Essentially, Death Stranding is one long dramatic, cautionary tale demonstrating why UPS absolutely MUST survive the apocalypse.

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Literally EVERYTHING you carry is represented on your character’s body, and as you travel from one destination to the next you must not only survive the challenges that exist between these two points, but manage all of the packages you are carrying as well.  Gone are the days on infinite pockets and backpacks that magically hold enough ammunition for a small army… Death Stranding takes planning for your trip to a whole new level.  With SO much glorious walking to do, the last thing you would ever want is to be required to backtrack because you didn’t bring everything you needed.  Choosing what to bring and how to stack it becomes a critical part of your gaming experience as well.

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The importance of this becomes apparent in short order… in addition to the desire for efficient movement you must also be able to handle the duel challenges of battling your enemies in an increasingly hostile environment while STILL balancing your precious cargo load.  Carrying more items means you can complete your missions faster, but this also increases your difficulty level when battling enemies and navigating all of the obstacle courses the game will throw at you.

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Fortunately, the game knows that the delicate balancing act of determining the optimal way to bear your burden is a bit frustrating and gave us the option to have our load “auto-balanced” for maximum effectiveness.  And unless you have a deep passion for stacking boxes and a desire to increase your blood pressure I am not sure why anyone would NOT want to take advantage of this benefit.  The journey is already difficult enough… why make it even harder?  If you are that much of a glutton for punishment, you should probably just go play Dark Souls.

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The value of an auto-balanced inventory in a game like this is obvious and transparent, and unless you are remarkably stubborn your long voyage through the world of Death Stranding can be a little less stressful if you simply utilize this simple tool.  But as simple as this concept is to understand in this game, it is surprising how many of us choose not to utilize the EXACT same option in our personal lives.

Many times I have found that both believers and non-believers have a faulty view of the experience of becoming a follower of Christ.  At the point that we make a choice to receive what Jesus has done for us we are already labeled as many things… a boyfriend/girlfriend, a spouse, a parent, a police officer, a teacher, a son/daughter… the list can go on and on.  And many of us make the mistake of viewing our choice to serve God as something we are ADDING to our load… a fresh burden to be carried and placed somewhere within our already overloaded backpack.  In addition to being a good student, a caring parent, a loving spouse, or a loyal employee we add the pressure of being a perfect “Christian” to our to-do list.  Just thinking about it makes me need to grab the Excedrin.

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So what happens?  Like a bad game of Jenga, we try to add the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule, the Lord’s Prayer, and every other Biblical doctrine we can think of into our already cluttered and busy lives and keep chugging along wondering why our lives aren’t any better.  I thought Jesus said very specifically that His burden is LIGHT (Matthew 11:28-30), so why do I feel so over-whelmed?  This feels like the intro for a bad infomercial…

There has GOT to be a better way!

Fortunately, there is… and it WON’T cost you three easy payments or require you to pay shipping and handling.  The problem is not how to incorporate Christ into our already hectic and grueling lives, but how to rebuild your life from scratch with HIM at the foundation.  The Christian walk is not a new part of our life that we layer into our pre-existing conditions… it is the foundation we begin building on.  I have watched so many people (as well as myself) attempt to work Christ into their lives by adding Christian music, Christian jewelry, Christian books, and Christian chicken sandwiches into their daily lives as if that will “flavor”  the meal they were previously preparing into something that God will enjoy.  We “sanctify” our movie collection by adding the “God is NOT Dead” series into it, we change the radio stations in our car, and we add toppings to a pizza that was already half-baked before the process started.  And while none of these things in and of themselves are a bad idea (especially those delicious chicken sandwiches), they do not address the root cause issue.

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Jesus confronted this problem head-on when speaking to His followers, who were clearly struggling as well.  Worry and stress are indicators that we have not truly given our burdens to the Lord and built our lives with Him at the foundation.  We cannot simply add Him on as a layer of clothing… He must form the BASIS of our thought processes and everything we do flows from an understanding that He is the source.

Luke 12:22-31 Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them.  Of how much more value are you than the birds?And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?“  And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Let’s break that down… the secret of Christian living is not adding the burden of pleasing God to our day-to-day struggles.  It is understanding that we wake up each day in service to our Lord, and if we seek Him first He will guide us into what we need to do in order to be successful in all of our pursuits.  The Ten Commandments are not a burden to carry, but a natural off-shoot of loving and serving God.  If we truly see ourselves as the output device of a loving God to all of those we interact with, we will follow the Golden Rule organically.  These are indicators of a relationship with Christ at the foundation, not a list of new rules and regulations for those who dare to raise their hand and ask for Christ to take over their lives.  And we can live stress-free knowing that if we are truly placing His interests and desires ahead of our own, HE will make sure we reach our destination and that everything we need for the journey will be provided along the way.

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I pray this lightens your load as we travel this road together… if you feel burdened and worn out, it is likely that you have allowed your walk with Christ to become cargo you are trying to carry instead of the power that carries YOU.  A life lived with Christ at the helm is certainly not without it’s fair share of winds and waves, but it IS a life free of worrying about who CONTROLS the storm.  There will still be rough roads and more enemies than you can shake an “officially-licensed, celebrity endorsed, OSHA approved” stick at… but you can also rest comfortably knowing that He prepared everything you need to perform His will to show up EXACTLY when you need it, and not one second earlier.  A Christ-centered life is the only way you can auto-balance your load on this plane of existence… anything else that promises success and a life free from worry is only trying to sell you something.  Wherever He guides, He provides!

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