It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… and now for many of these classic Halo Xbox 360 experiences, it is the end of times. While it is true that almost all of these games live on, either in part or in whole, through updated versions in the Master Chief Collection on XB1… I can’t help but feel a certain wistfulness as the final dawn approaches for these titles that at one point defined an era of my console experience. Microsoft is finally sending these Xbox 360 services off into that good night for the final time, and while the actual enjoyability of each of these releases varied, they also represent some of my fondest gaming memories. Spoilers follow… for those that somehow missed the memo that some of these games came out over ten years ago.
Which one was a game-changer for you? Was it the unique, rain-soaked, soft jazz-inspired tones of Halo 3 ODST complete with a protagonist that somehow had less to say than the ever-stoic Master Chief? Or perhaps it was the evergreen excellence of Halo 3, a game that for many remains the gold standard in the Halo saga to this day. And who will ever forget that moment in Halo Reach when it started TRULY dawning on you that you were not going to escape this mission alive… and as each member of Noble team fell it became harder to move forward, knowing that each remaining level was going to call a member of your squad’s number for the final time. Then there was that incredible part of Halo 4 that… well… hmmmm… there had to be SOMETHING good in that one. It’s just not coming to mind right now. I am sure there was a good part in there somewhere. Maybe we should just leave Halo 4 right where it is and get back to the point…
The point is that for many people there were some unforgettable moments captured in each of these games, and I know for me personally there were some shared online experiences that remain some of my favorite all-time gaming moments. And as the lights flicker off on these services for the final time, I think it is appropriate to recognize each of these games, flaws and all, for the incredible achievements that they were at the time. As the slightly under-whelming launch of Halo 5: Guardians so aptly demonstrated, it’s not easy to follow in the footsteps of these juggernaut releases that have come before… and for years these games have continued to provide entertainment, comfort and solace to the dedicated gamers out there who have continued to finish the fight all these years. But now… it is time to say those final goodbyes.
The funny thing about moving forward is that most of the time we are referring to moving on from something negative that happened, such as a traumatic experience or disappointment that we would prefer to leave in the past. There is an entire genre of self-help books designed to assist us with moving on after loss, after pain, after hurt, after heartbreak… and it is definitely critical that we do so. We want to “Just keep swimming” through the hardest and most challenging moments of life, but sometimes we fail to recognize that it is equally important to move forward from positive situations and happy memoires as well. As nice as it would be to simply bask in every remaining Halo sunrise in perpetuity, the truth is that we must be prepared to move forward through the BEST of times… not just the worst.
Let’s be honest… moving forward from a comfortable spot can be almost as annoying as remaining in an uncomfortable spot. Don’t believe me? Have you ever gotten comfortable on the couch after a LOOOONG day, maybe got yourself some snacks or a drink, cuddled up with someone or perhaps just bundled up in a blanket… and then realized that the remote for the TV is on the other side of the room? Now be TRULY honest… did you decide to just keep watching whatever was already on TV because you didn’t want to disrupt your “coziness”? I mean… you JUST got comfortable. The blanket is even covering your toes JUST right. It’s that moment when a pet cuddles up in your lap and you realize you are now going to have to stay right where you are for the rest of all time. It’s that comfortable place that we wish would never end… and if we were given the choice, they probably never would.
An excellent example of this is the shepherd boy who became a king… a young lad named David. When we start his story in 1 Samuel 16, we find that David was off taking care of business… he LITERALLY was not even invited to the party that was going to change his life.
1 Samuel 16:10-13 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
For a little context, Samuel was the chosen prophet of God to lead and judge the people, but the people of Israel were not satisfied with this arrangement. They wanted a KING, like all of the other countries around them. After multiple warnings that this was a terrible idea, God acquiesced to their desires and gave them their first king (Saul), but that wasn’t really working out well for anyone. So Samuel was sent to look for the NEXT king of Israel, and he landed at the home of Jesse, who had eight sons. Jesse only brought his eldest seven to meet the prophet, but it was his youngest son, David, who would be chosen… even though it would be MANY years until the crown actually landed on his head. But here is the interesting thing… David wasn’t just out chilling with the sheep until the time his number was called to face down Goliath. Tending sheep was only David’s PART TIME JOB… he had a full-time as the ARMOR-BEARER to the king… the afore-mentioned King Saul to be precise.
1 Samuel 16:18-21 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.” Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse, and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” And Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine, and a young goat, and sent them by his son David to Saul. So David came to Saul and stood before him. And he loved him greatly, and he became his armorbearer.
1 Samuel 17:15 But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.
So let’s cut to the chase… David was not merely just some little shepherd boy who came and fought a giant and became famous for it. He already had a gig as both the armor-bearer AND harpist for the king, and then he would tend the sheep part-time back at home to make the ends meet. This guy was juggling THREE jobs while also somehow finding the time to kill a lion AND a bear who was attacking his herd (1 Samuel 17:36-37)… but while David was in PROXIMITY to his future and showing flashes of his capability, he was still not inhabiting his destiny. Not yet.
It would have been easy for David to be satisfied with the level of success he had already experienced. As the youngest son of his father, he was already punching WELL above his weight class with his TWO high-profile gigs working for the king as well as his pro wrestling career with dangerous animals on the side. But David had an ANNOINTING… a divine call on his life that would not allow him to rest comfortably in the shadow of the throne when he was destined to OCCUPY it. When Goliath came to town, David’s collision course with his true purpose finally revealed itself… but only because David refused to watch this from the sidelines and became involved. Goliath didn’t come to town calling David’s name and picking a fight with him… David had to invite himself to this party as well.
1 Samuel 17:32-37 Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
So…. just keeping it real here… I would be pretty proud of myself If I had accomplished just ONE of the things on David’s amazing resume of accomplishments. I mean, can YOU play the harp? While protecting your sheep from a LION? But after all he had already done, David was still not prepared to get comfortable in ANY of these roles or with ANY of these achievements, as incredible as each might have been… because as long as he was still living, he was still moving forward towards the crown.
Whatever this year has meant for you, the truth is that it is time for ALL of us to move forward. Some of us have some negative stuff that we need to leave in the past and simply place it at the foot of His cross and leave it there… but we all must also graduate into what is NEXT for us. And that means not only moving on from the pain and misery of the negative, but also saying a fond farewell to those comfortable spots that will only hold us back from the next step in our destiny. We were never meant to stop growing… to stop moving forward… to stop advancing. Every sunset is beautiful and deserves to be appreciated for all that it represented… but each new day represents not only opportunity, but an EXPECTATION that we rise to what the Lord has next for us.
Like David, we are all chasing a crown… and this is not a passive race. If anyone had earned the right to take a pit stop and enjoy the fruits of their labor, it would have been the Apostle Paul. But in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, even Paul reminds us that as long as we are still down here, we are still running. Continuing to dwell in (and on) our past, pleasant or traumatic, is simply not an option when there is still so much left to do. Much like all of my happy (and many not so happy) adventures throughout the Halo franchise on the Xbox 360, moving forward is simply part of the curriculum. And the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, lovingly places His hand on our back and presses us forward not only from those times that try the soul, but also from the happy times that we wish would never end. Join me as we move forward towards a new dawn, and the fresh adventures that await each and every one of us!
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