Jedi Chronicles: “Game-splaining” and a Jedi’s Journey (Part 2)

I have a problem. I have some BIG decisions to make that will have some long-lasting repercussions. These choices will shape my future in some very large ways… ways that may not even reveal themselves until much later in my journey. And considering that I don’t know exactly what challenges await me in the future, I must be very thoughtful about how I proceed. I am going to perform my research to the best of my ability, but ultimately how I choose to move forward is an incredibly personal decision that must take into account the unique path that lies behind me, the unknown path that stretches before me, and the intrinsic qualities I already possess. With a mixture of trepidation and determination, I have made my selection… I am going to go with “Telekinesis”. Based on how I am currently playing Star Wars Jedi Survivor, it just fits my particular gameplay style of keeping the combat a little farther away from my character and leveraging the environment to my advantage. What, you thought I was talking about something else? Oh… I guess I can see how you might have gotten that impression. I suppose I DO have some big choices to make in my real-world life as well, but right now I am trying to choose between what skills to unlock with my character, and with a finite amount of “skill points” to invest, which decisions I make are not only based on which skills I have already chosen to unlock, but also which ones fit my specific style of play. The way that others have chosen to play the game may mean that “telekinesis” is not a skill that would have chosen to invest into… or maybe they will, but at a different point in the game. And that is the great thing about Jedi Survivor… we can each play it within the parameters of the game while still playing to our unique strengths.

The funny thing about the decisions we each get to make in our games is that many times we may feel that our particular way of approaching the problem is the “best”, or perhaps the “only” way to do it. When it comes to linear game experiences that feature binary decisions, there are certainly titles in which there is only ONE way to succeed and a plethora of ways to fail. But as a gamer who frequently plays open-world adventures, the sheer volume of choices tends to mean that nobody will play the same game in the exact same way. While that is part of the “charm” of such games, it also opens up the entirely unwanted and undesired realm of what I call “game-splaining”… the art of someone telling me (typically in an unsolicited and unwanted manner) how I should have chosen to play MY version of the game with MY personally developed character based on THEIR personal experience with the same game from an entirely different perspective.

You may not be familiar with the term “game-splaining”, but anyone has played a video game and talked to others about their experience with that game is DEFINITELY familiar with the concept. As gamers, the only thing many of us enjoy more than playing games is sharing our experiences with those games with others… and considering that many games feature branching choices and unique dialogue options, it can be fun to find out how each of us chose to explore the exact same adventure in different ways. I truly enjoy sitting down to speak with a fellow gamer who has chosen to play a “Titan” class character in Destiny 2 when I chose a very different class more suited to my strengths (Voidwalker)… and we can compare skills and capabilities as well as complement each other’s styles when we play together. But I have ALSO run into those gamers who openly (and without provocation) ridicule the choices I have made and the investments I have placed into my character, informing me that I have played the game all wrong. They “game-splain” the situation to me, telling me that I should have chosen a different class, upgraded a different set of skills, taken on my missions in a different order, or picked a different load-out. Without knowing ME, how I prefer to play, what I do best, and what my weaknesses are, they proceed to diagnose my condition and provide me with completely undesired advice on what I should have done, how I should have done it, and how I should be playing my own version of the game. And whether it is done with the best of intentions or comes from a misplaced sense of superiority, this typically unwanted and unhelpful “game-splaining” as well as other forms of “splaining” shows up both in our video games and our real world ALL the time.

In our unique relationships with Christ, there are “binary” aspects to our adventures as well as uniquely diverging paths that are designed to personalize our experience. For example, it is clear that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father (John 14:6)… an example of a clearly binary decision. We either choose to follow Him, or we don’t. Paul says it best in his letter to the church at Ephesus…

Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

But within our service to Christ, there are a large amount of distinctly different ministries (Ephesians 4:11-12) and spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12), and these combinations will shape our respective journeys into an adventure that is unlike anyone else’s. And because of those individual permutations, we will find that each of us will receive talents that others don’t, have identical prayers answered in different ways, and find that our paths and “skill trees” may develop in directions that seem strange to others but are perfect for us and how the Lord is designing our specific endgame. When we fail to recognize and respect those distinctly unique ways that the Lord guides each of His children, we can become “game-splainers” to others… something that happened MULTIPLE times in the Bible. For example, when Job was experiencing the massive tragedies that re-defined his life, Job’s well-meaning but misinformed friends tried to convince him that he must have committed a secret sin to have received this punishment (Job 8, Job 11). But they could not have been more wrong… Job had been targeted by the enemy of our souls and was experiencing this crisis from a place of obedience, not rebellion (Job 1:8-12). Or let’s take Jesus and the time that Peter tried to “game-splain” the mission to the Son of God Himself…

Matthew 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Well, that didn’t go well. I’m sure Peter had his “heart in the right place”, but he could not have been more wrong. And this can be the thought process many times when people attempt to “game-splain” to others, when those who may have the best of intentions try to provide support from their own life experience instead of seeking to understand the specific journey the Lord has for the recipient of their advice. The audacity of Peter “correcting” the Lord and Job’s friends “accusing” the righteous Job aren’t unique… they are just as common in our modern world as they were at the time these events occurred. And for our final Biblical trip down memory lane, we will take a deeper look at one of the most iconic moments of “game-splaining” in the entire Bible… Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

John 12:1-8 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

For context, this is the same Mary who previously sat at Jesus’s feet to learn from Him while her sister Martha tried to convince her to help her with the household chores (Luke 10:38-42). And this is the same Lazarus who Christ had resurrected from the dead in the previous chapter (John 11), so it stands to reason that Mary would be pretty appreciative of both this time with the Lord as well as what He had just done for her and her family. And in an incredible outpouring of love and adoration towards Christ, she performed a beautiful, symbolic, and expensive act of worship to the Lord… and wherever there is a genuine act of service to the Lord, there will always be at least one “troll” to savagely “game-splain” why they are doing it all wrong. In this case poor Mary was confronted by Judas, a member of the twelve disciples who “game-splained” that Mary was worshipping the Lord “the wrong way”, and that she should have simply donated the oil she used to anoint Christ to the poor. While Judas had ulterior motives in his desire to see the funds deposited into the treasury fund he was stealing from, the truth is that we see a clear trend throughout the Scriptures in which people have tried to redirect the actions of others based on their own preconceived notions of the “right way” to do things… and every time it was someone with an incomplete vision of the way the Lord individualizes His approach with each of His children to fit purposes that are invisible to us at the time.

Our walk with the Lord is not a “prescription” designed to be followed with a specific dosage taken at pre-determined times each day for maximum effect… it is a RELATIONSHIP. We can’t expect to take the exact same steps, do the exact same things, and achieve the exact same results of others. The Lord we serve is always the same (Hebrews 13:8), but His answers for each of us will be different because WE are the ones who are in the process of changing (2 Corinthians 3:18). And because of this, our “skill trees” will be completely and authentically unique for each of us even as we are all working towards the exact same endgame… just as every gamer who picks up Jedi Survivor will play as Cal Kestis, but we will all play him slightly differently. Some will rock a double-bladed lightsaber and invest heavily into those specific saber techniques, others will maximize their health to match their play style, and some will dabble in skills that unlock unique ways to approach combat and interact with the environment. Some of us played the first game and it shows in how we approach this sequel because we already know what we are best at… and others may be new to the series and are still trying to find out how they prefer to play. And all of these approaches are appropriate and fit within the parameters of the experience designed by the game’s creator… one that was designed with each of us in mind as the diverse individuals that we are.

The remarkable diversity that exists within the body of Christ is a beautiful and wonderful thing, and when we choose to coexist as one body in full appreciation of the unique design of each member and their particular mission within this construct, we can complete missions for Him that are only possible when we walk in unity of heart and purpose (1 Corinthians 12). But when we attempt to “game-splain” to each other how we should each live beyond the confines of what the Scriptures say (in the entirety of their context), we create a body made of identical and redundant parts. He has a higher reason for the way He answers our prayers than we are able to see… because the paths we are going to travel on next are as different and unique as we are. And if we allow ourselves to listen to others’ views on how we should approach our battles in life instead of directly seeking the guidance of the Lord through Scripture and prayer, we will make the mistake of trying to use someone else’s armor to fight a battle that was specifically designed for our slingshot… just ask David about the time Saul tried to use his “wisdom and experience” to get David to fight his battle with Goliath the way Saul thought he should (1 Samuel 17:38-40) instead of the way the Lord had been training David for this moment all of his life.

There is one and only one way to the Father, but His path for each of us to serve Him on this planet is as diverse as the battlefields we are being sent to occupy until He calls us home (Luke 19:13). He gives each of us special and unique gifts to accomplish the missions He has placed us on, and because of this we will each “play this game” differently. Paul chose never to marry (1 Corinthians 9:5), while Peter served the Lord from a married state and Philip served while raising multiple children (Acts 21:9). There are those who are gifted in song like David, in written words like Luke, in spoken words like Apollos, in leadership like Deborah, or in strength like Samson. Some had their miraculous life-changing event occur at a young age like Mary the mother of Jesus, and others saw this happen near the zenith of their life like Elizabeth when she became pregnant with John the Baptist. Different paths, similar miracles, and each one uniquely designed by the Lord for both the recipient as well as their intended impact. So let’s avoid the temptation to “game-splain” to others from our limited vantage point… just because that is the way it happened for us does NOT mean that is the way it will unfold for another one of the Lord’s children. And if we are receiving the unwanted “gift of game-splaining” from others, let’s take that advice to the Lord in prayer and careful Bible study so we can hear directly from the source and match it up with the Scriptures.

There are a plentiful number of occasions in the Bible where the Lord used people to coach, correct, teach, and preach to others… He still does that today and we should be appreciative and thankful when receiving a gift of wisdom and truth delivered in love from one of His messengers. But we also need to “test all things and hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Lord has used everything from a burning bush to a beauty contest to save His people, and His methods of guidance and direction range from the belly of a whale to a talking donkey. His style of communication can be a whisper or a whirlwind, and it is always based on what His child needs to hear and how they need to hear it. With that in mind, let’s allow HIS guidance as revealed through His Spirit and validated in Scripture to be the authoritative decision maker on what we choose to do next… while realizing that it may not look the way we expect, prefer, or have seen before.

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