Questions Within the Questing: Finding Purpose in the “Strange”

What is the strangest in-game item you have picked up and eventually found a critical use for in a game? No, I am not talking about collecting all the Korok seeds in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild only to be rewarded with Hestu’s “gift”… SPOILER ALERT, it is a useless pile of golden poo. Yes, that is real… and no, it does not serve any purpose. I’m talking about the stuff that is ACTUALLY useful… like the cardboard boxes laying around in the Metal Gear games that turn out to be far more valuable than their appearance would let on to. Over my years of playing video games, I have learned to pick up pretty much everything I find laying around. Strange key? Yep, that goes in the loot bag. A letter addressed to a character who I haven’t met yet? Might as well grab that, too. Chicken-shaped hat? Stashed in the inventory… you just never know when that will come in handy.

Half of any role-playing game is tracking down quest items to complete errands and assignments that allow us to progress further into the game, and in most open-world games it is common to explore areas that contain quest items for quests that we haven’t yet received. What appears to be a random piece of junk may actually be a critical component used to craft an incredibly powerful piece of armor, but it won’t reveal itself as such until we run into the armorer who is capable of forging such a masterpiece. The value of many of these items may not be apparent in my backpack or fetch a high price at the local shop, but they tend to reveal their true value when the story calls for them. And in most video games, if the developer took the time to not only create the item but also place it in a specific location within the narrative, there is a good chance that they did this for a very specific and important reason.

In our real world lives we can often feel that the things that are occurring to us and the events we are participating in seem random, inconsequential, and pointless… and in our personal journeys for purpose and meaning the last thing any of us want is to pursue dead-end paths and hollow side-quests. We trek through our own personal “valleys of the shadow of death” only to find that our “reward” at the end does not possess obvious value and seems to be both random and pointless. Perhaps we find ourselves stuck taking an unplanned and unwanted detour in life, and at the end we find ourselves holding an experience that only offers more questions. We crave the answers that will make these unpleasant inconveniences and painful disruptions meaningful… but as we will see in the path of Christ Himself, these unexpected diversions and the seemingly random quest items we find along the way serve purposes that often don’t reveal themselves until the circumstances of our lives call for them to demonstrate their importance. And many times, the oddest items don’t demonstrate their true value until we are reaching our journey’s end.

The very first “quest items” that were recorded as being given to Christ were offered by the wise men who visited Him from the east in Matthew 2…

Matthew 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

Matthew 2:9-11 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Most of us are probably at least moderately familiar with this story as well as the dark turn that follows. But let’s linger here for just a moment to reflect on what is occurring… the newly born Christ has received the first quest items for His journey… gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All of these items clearly possessed inherent substantial value… but they were also not necessarily what one would tend to gift an infant. I suppose I would certainly appreciate any amount of gold that someone wants to send my child’s way, but I am not exactly sure what a baby would find to do with exotic spices. My guess (based on personal experience) is that they would probably make a big mess with it. But these gifts were about to serve a very practical purpose as well as provide a deeper meaning by foreshadowing the path that Christ would walk. Enter the first painful detour of our Lord’s young life…

Matthew 2:13-16 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son”. Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

These gifts came with a bullseye, as many of our gifts in life often do. No sooner had Christ been blessed with this outpouring of love than the enemy launched an attack to crush His journey before He had even begun to take His first steps. Now I don’t know if you have ever had to move before, but it is NOT cheap… and I have a pretty good feeling that the gold that they received came in pretty hand for the emergency move to Egypt. Like in many of our games, the quest item arrived right before the necessity to use it appeared… and what appeared to be merely a random gift from strangers could not have arrived at a more critical time. So… what about all this frankincense and myrrh? Sure, there were incredibly valuable and easily tradable items that may also have provided for this young family during their unplanned detour to a foreign country… but they also indicated the journey of Christ’s life before He ever got started.

Jeremiah 6:20 For what purpose to Me comes frankincense from Sheba, and sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet to Me.”

Leviticus 24:7-8 And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the Lord. Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant.

Frankincense was a critical aspect of the offerings to the Lord that He commanded His people to bring, but because they had forsaken Him and His covenant, they were no longer acceptable to Him. The only sacrifice that could atone for the sins of the people was laying there in Mary’s arms… the willing sacrifice of a perfect gift offered to the Father in the form of Christ. From His earliest days, His journey destined Him to take His place as an offering that was symbolized by the frankincense that He was given. And I believe we all know how His story reached its’ climax and the purpose for that myrrh…

John 19:38-40 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 

The gifts that Christ received as well as some of the people He met along the way (such as Nicodemus and Joseph who had only previously pursued following Him privately) had finally revealed their full purpose… His path as an innocent exile to Egypt, a perfect sacrificial offering for humanity, and a willingly executed and entombed human were both provided for as well as foreshadowed with the quest items He was given and guided and supported by the cast of characters he met along the way. Some were kind and generous, and others were nefarious and wicked… and all served their part to push Him one step closer to His destiny.

Much like our video game adventures, what we are given by the “Creator” doesn’t always make sense until it is time for it to be used in our quest… and then we will find that even these odd and seemingly random items and occurrences were actually critical and required elements for us to be able to move forward. If things aren’t making a lot of sense in our lives right now, it might be because we are expecting these quest items to be functional right NOW, when their intended and designed usage is a bit farther on down the road. Our Father creates relationships in our lives that may not serve an obvious purpose in the moment, but as we saw with Nicodemus, will serve a critical purpose when we need them the most. He may provide us keys for doors that are meant to be unlocked at another time or develop skills within us for a journey we aren’t even aware that we should be preparing for.

Perhaps what we have endured and the events that have happened to us are confusing right now… but that is because our quest isn’t over yet. What we are experiencing and the items we are gaining from these events may simply be “quest items” that won’t reveal their full value and purpose until the time comes within our destiny for them to be of use… and many of our experiences in life don’t reveal all of their secrets until we are at our journey’s end. So, whether life hands us gold, frankincense, myrrh, a strange key, or a chicken hat… if we are aligning our will with the Father’s, we can rest assured that a time is coming when we will not only need it, but we will be unable to proceed further without it. And if our current season in life has us moving, staying, riding, or hiding… we can find peace knowing that wherever the Lord guides us, He will also provide for us. Even if His provision comes in the form of something as seemingly odd and strange as an empty cardboard box.

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