Pop quiz… raise your hand if you have fond memories of engaging in some epic Wii Sports boxing, bowling, or tennis showdowns back in the day. Those silky smooth controls… the extraordinary precision of the Wii remote that flawlessly matched each and every nuanced flick of my wrist, my movements gracefully transformed into a magnificent ballet of form and function… WAIT. That is not how I remember it AT ALL. It actually tended to look a lot more like I was frantically trying to swat a swarm of flies using over-sized tennis rackets while aggressively swimming in honey… or at a minimum resembled Nicolas Cage in pretty much any acting role he has ever done. Just MOVEMENT… arms and legs flailing all over the place without any rhyme or reason, typically bearing very little resemblance to the actual sport I was emulating. But regardless of the accuracy of these awkward attempts I think we can all agree on one thing… the motion controls might not have been as precise or functional as one would hope, but they were absolutely, positively FUN.
Even if you don’t have any recollection of playing motion based games, there is a pretty good chance you are a “leaner”. You know… someone who “leans” to the right or left when we turn the corner in Mario Kart, angling our body while hugging the curve as if it would help us drift more successfully… or perhaps you bob your head in real life to dodge a virtual attack, leaning your physical body back away from the screen to shield yourself from taking in-game damage. Don’t be ashamed… we all have done it for years, long before this was reflected in our gaming experiences. Video games make us want to MOVE… but that doesn’t necessarily mean we always want our movements to become the primary way of transmitting our intentions to the screen. For example, in my experience I have found that when playing a game like Mario Kart, players who use the standard button layout tend to enjoy a higher level of success than those who count on motion controls to steer their kart. While it can be more FUN to play with motion control based movements, in most competitive scenarios players tend to remove the motion control options and stick with basic button-based inputs.
The recent remaster of Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword exemplifies this concept, addressing one of the most common complaints about the original release of the title… the motion-based sword gameplay. While swinging a sword in a Zelda game might SOUND like a fun idea, it can get old fairly quickly over the course of hours and hours and HOURS of dispatching enemies and cutting down grass. Most importantly, it just isn’t quite as precise as simply angling an analog stick and pressing a button… so Nintendo added the option to play the game the old-fashioned way for those of us that don’t WANT to punch the air with our Joy-Cons or simply prefer a higher level of accuracy (and a bit less frustration) while playing. As much as I hate to say it, sometimes the ideas that are the most fun don’t necessarily correspond to success… and some of the most successful strategies aren’t always a lot of fun.
This battle between fun and functional is nothing new… and this not only exists in our personal lives, but even permeates our walk with Christ. Raise your hand if you have ever battled the infamous “Christian guilt” associated with doing something simply for pleasure instead of purpose… yep, same here. While it is critical that we take our mission of serving the Lord and saving souls very seriously, the truth is that as believers in Christ we should be having the MOST fun while down here, not the least. As Christians we should be full of unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8-9), but too often it seems that living a life of service to the Lord is accompanied by all of the demonstrated happiness and enthusiasm of standing in an eternally unmoving line down at our local DMV. Our walk with the Lord is not supposed to be some boring slog through our current path so we can enjoy a FUTURE life of happiness with Him… it is the ONLY path to true joy, happiness, and fun here on THIS planet as well. And if that sounds crazy, it is time to revisit why we seem to think that way.
Let’s start with a couple of the most well known and commonly quoted Scriptures on the subject of joy and happiness…
Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.
Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
In both of these examples joy comes from inside the heart and is manifested outwardly, not from the outside in. This is not a face we put on in order to APPEAR to be having a good time while patiently waiting for the REAL party to begin in heaven. It is clear that it is the LORD that puts happiness into our hearts RIGHT HERE on earth (Psalm 4:7)… so what is so wrong about feeling and demonstrating joy and happiness? Well, the problem is not in the FEELING, but in how we choose to pursue it.
Ephesians 5:3-10 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
Our enemy has taken all of the good and pure elements of pleasure that the Lord intended for us to enjoy here on earth and produced counterfeit versions… experiences that mutate the intentions of our Creator to add pain and regret to the pleasure He designed us to feel. And as a result, it is easy for us to shun both the good AND harmful versions of these joys in an attempt to remain functional for His Kingdom… and while this may be well-intentioned, our hearts were not designed to run on a joyless existence spent in empty servitude. And most importantly, it is impossible to attract those who are dwelling in a world of darkness to a light that has been smothered with a wet towel.
As a gamer, I truly enjoyed playing the Wii Sports version of bowling and tennis. They weren’t terribly accurate, they had very little to do with the real sport, the graphics were pretty rudimentary, and the controls were as simple as a game gets. But they were FUN… and honestly while there have been games based on bowling and tennis that are much more precise, graphically impressive, and feature a more realistic and accurate experience… they aren’t any FUN. The functional experience is boring, the fun experience isn’t realistic… so, where do we go from here?
Colossians 3:17 In whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Here is the Biblical balance of fun vs. functional for the believer… we SHOULD be thankful and joyful for the pleasures that the Lord has given us in this life. He made everything from consuming food, laughing at jokes, exploring new places, learning new skills, enjoying His gift of romance and human sexuality, and all the other physical sensations we experience to bring us JOY. He specifically designed the nerves in our body to demonstrate these feelings in ways that make us feel happiness and pleasure. There are Biblical constraints placed on all of these pursuits to insure we do not chase pleasure to the detriment of our calling, which is to carry His light into the world and reflect Him to those living in the shadows (Matthew 5:16). And due to the unique path each of us have been called to walk, we may carry personal convictions that are just as unique to align us with the road He has placed us on (1 Corinthians 7:7). But walking with the Lord is not some boring drudgery, sacrificing all present happiness for the promise of future joy. We should be the MOST joyful of all who walk on this earth, because we can enjoy His gifts of pleasure and happiness without shame or fear.
The truth is there is a time and place for both the fun as well as the functional… when it comes to tennis, I will gladly replace my controller with a Wii remote and enjoy the pleasure of waving my arms in the air like I just don’t care. But when I am playing a Mario title, I don’t really feel like trying to physically double-jump around my living room EVERY TIME Mario needs to hop over a pit. In the life of a believer we are called to submit ourselves to the guidance of the Spirit of God in all things so we will always know the who, what, when, where, and how of appropriate conduct at all times… but we should be experiencing and demonstrating the JOY of a child of the Father in every one of these circumstances. In our Father we have access to the BEST of what He has designed for us… in the here (Galatians 5:22-23) as well as in the hereafter (John 14:1-3). So don’t let your joy be stolen by the enemy or perverted into a weak imitation of the genuine and righteous joy of being a child of the King… it is the joy we receive from Him that gives us the strength to do what He has called us to do, not the other way around.
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