Nowadays, if you want to spend time with your kids, many dads play video games. It’s fun, even if the kids beat you. Not so long ago, before the days of I-phones, on a rainy or snowy day, dads and kids would play table games. Checkers, chess, cards, spoons, dominoes, maybe even Monopoly. We used to play Scrabble. In good weather, when it wasn’t too hot or cold, we’d get outside and play horseshoes, or a pick-up game of baseball or touch football. Oh, and ping-pong. We used to stand in the garage and play ping-pong til the wee hours. All fun, light-hearted entertainment. I don’t know about you, but some of the best times of my life, both as a kid and as a dad, were spent playing silly games with my dad or my kids.
Two observations: 1 The games weren’t just silly, often they were serious; and 2 There was a lot more going on there than fun, light-hearted entertainment.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, beating my dad doing anything was a major accomplishment. It was proof that you had some gear; that you weren’t just some dumb kid; that you really could compete. I know, when you’re little, (maybe 5-6) your dad would let you beat him and pretend you really beat him, just to encourage you. But as you grew you got better and every once in a while you’d actually beat him, fair and square; and you knew it and he knew it. It was a major deal! You know those lines about, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”; or “it’s just for fun”; or “it’s just luck”, or “it’s who gets the best cards”, or “it’s who’s having an off day.” Well yeah, all those things matter. But all those things are just excuses. What really matters is who WINS.
It sounds like all these events are just for fun, but every one of them is having an effect on your ego. When you lose, your ego gets a little smaller. You grumble to yourself about how you’re not quite as smart, or as fast, or as experienced, or whatever, as your opponent. If it goes on for a while, and you lose a number of games in a row, you get kinda depressed, thinking maybe you really don’t have what it takes. But even one legitimate win gives you a whole new lease on life. And when you win, your ole ego just swells up. You can feel it in your chest. You can’t stop smiling. Even if you’re a gracious victor, the green monster is saying, “Wow, you really ARE smart. You really DO have what it takes!” You get to thinking you’re invincible, you’re bullet-proof. It’s kinda scary what your ego does. Then if you’re nice, you say to your opponent, “Ah, it’s nothing. It’s just a game.” But who are you kidding?
Isn’t it just crazy that God gave us an ego? I can’t figure it out, but He wants us to surrender our ego to Him. He wants us to surrender our will to His Will. But He loves us so much that He wants this to soak in on us. So instead of hitting us over the head, He ‘manages’ our ego with these silly games. He wants us to see for ourselves what is really going on. He wants us to deny our selves, surrender our will, our soul, our control, our lives, to Him. He wants us to see who we are, so we can realize what a great gift ‘LIFE in Jesus’ is.
This ego management is not just about you and me. God did it with Moses, Abraham, David, Joseph, Jonah, and Paul the Apostle. In some cases it wasn’t just silly games He used to manage them. With Moses, God sent him to do 40 years of solitary time in the wilderness before He sent him to deliver the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. With Abraham, it was his ‘Son of the Promise’ Isaac, who was to be sacrificed. With David, he spent years as an outlaw, running from King Saul trying to kill him, before God made David the king. Think of all the horrible things Joseph went through so he could say, in the end, speaking to his brothers, “You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20)
Just goes to show what lengths God will go to, to manage the egos of those He has chosen to do His will. It’s a VERY big deal to be chosen by God. Might make your ego swell up a whole lot. But don’t worry, God can fix it so you really will “deny yourself, take up your cross (die to yourself) daily, and follow Him.” (Luke 9:23) It’s the adventure of a lifetime!