Super Mario 3D World and Post-Game Content: Saving the Best for Last

Finishing a video game can be a bittersweet experience… the characters and story that we may have been enjoying for hours, days, months, or sometimes even YEARS is suddenly over, and that finality can be even more jarring if we are unhappy with the way the game ends. After investing emotionally into the narrative journey of a group of characters or spending a great deal of time developing specific skills in order to “beat the game”, the last thing any gamer wants is to feel like the story didn’t come to a satisfying conclusion (cough cough Halo 5 cough cough). Sure, there are games with truly bad endings that make us wish we had never played them in the first place. But for me, it isn’t just about how the game resolves its’ central conflict… sometimes I am just left wanting MORE. Perhaps the game was just starting to get fun and suddenly it was over, or sometimes I was just starting to get the hang of the controls when I realize that I’ve already finished the game. If we are lucky, a generous publisher will continue to support their release with additional post-game content like a season pass that adds an epilogue or perhaps builds on the story from a different character’s point of view. And while that is nice, it also costs me more MONEY… which now that I think about it, makes the publisher seem a little less generous and a bit more opportunistic, I suppose.

What I PREFER is what I find in a game like Super Mario 3D World on the Nintendo Switch, which cleverly hides some of its’ most clever and exciting levels AFTER we have successfully completed the game and defeated Bowser. The credits roll, the music plays, and it SEEMS like our journey is over and the game has been completed. But DON’T turn off your console… we aren’t finished yet. Shortly after the credits finish rolling an entirely new area opens up in the clouds, full of brand-new missions to complete… many of these levels containing some of the BEST content the game has to offer. All of this gaming goodness is just sitting there waiting for me…a few steps past the place where it SEEMED like the game had reached its’ slightly premature ending. And if I had simply turned off the game and put it away the moment it seemed like I was finished and I had done all there was to do, I would have completely MISSED the best part.

I have found myself in this spot in my real life adventures many times as well… more times than I can count. I have sat and stared at the abrupt and unforgiving “Game Over” screen in my mind’s eye after it feels like the credits have already rolled and the story ended with a whimper instead of a bang… leaving all the great things I hoped were going to happen as unfulfilled dreams and seemingly unanswered prayers. And in those moments, I would try to rationalize this by mentally listing all the reasons why my story is going to end in such a disappointing fashion… I’ve made too many mistakes and wasted my chance, I waited too long and missed my chance, I am just too old and this chance belongs to someone else now, or it seems like I’ve hit a wall and the Lord doesn’t have any more plans for me. Well, if that sounds like a place you are currently at or have recently been… I have some good news for you. But first, let me invite you to a party. No, not a Mario Party… those are terrible, and everyone always steals my stars. No, this one is MUCH better because it is not just any party… it is a wedding party.

John 2:1-3 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Few things will bring a party crashing to a halt faster than running out of food and drinks. People start checking their watches and suddenly remembering they had someplace else to be as soon as the pizza boxes are empty, and it is never a good sign when the party host starts frantically looking in the freezer hoping to find some Bagel Bites. And in this particular predicament, this was no mere party… this was a WEDDING. There aren’t enough Bagel Bites in the world to salvage the disaster of running out of refreshments during such a festive occasion. But fortunately, this party was far from over…

John 2:4-10 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

The party could have ended on a sour note and the final curtain would have fallen on an embarrassed host as well as the newly married couple… but Jesus had something better in mind. He didn’t simply refill the guest’s cups (though He could have) or distracted them with some parables while the disciples ran to the local grocery store… He did something more. Not just for those attending the wedding, but for all of us to read and understand as well. He made something BETTER, surpassing their wildest expectations, turning this potentially disappointing endgame into a brand-new start that was even BETTER than what they had just finished.

Here is the great news… for you, me, and all of us. If you are reading this, your game is NOT finished and the season you are currently in is NOT your final one. There is content beyond the “endgame” for all of us… and not just more of the same, but the BEST part still lies ahead if we choose to press forward into it. Sure, we may have felt that the ending to our story was dissatisfying or incomplete… that is because there is still more to come. The Lord has designed every aspect of our journey, and He specializes in saving the best for last. Christ’s story did not end in His suffering on the cross, or even at the excitement of the empty tomb. The best part is yet to be, when He welcomes us into the eternal joy He has been busily preparing for us (John 14:3).

If you feel like the party stopped a long time ago and there isn’t much left to celebrate, don’t be dismayed. The Lord who wrote our beginning also crafted our endgame… and if we allow Him, He will turn even the most ordinary of circumstances (like some plain ol’ water in some pots) into something extraordinary. Sometimes the game might seem to be over, but there is another level waiting around the corner with new challenges to conquer and a better ending than the one we were prepared to settle for. He does His best work on the other side of the tombs that were intended to be the final resting place for our hopes and our dreams… so let’s stop staring at that empty tomb, looking for Him to show up in the place that represents the death of our joy and the end of our story (Luke 24:5-6). There is another chapter, a better one, beyond our comprehension on the other side of this sorrow. Let’s lift up our eyes and find Him in the place He promised He would be… ready and waiting to launch our next adventure, with a new commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and a deeper anointing (Acts 1:4-5) that can only be discovered by pressing through the valley of the shadow of death and into the “post-game” content that could not be unlocked any other way.

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