By Jaime Nava –
When I was a buzz-headed lad growing up with my similarly shorn siblings, we would all gather around the Nintendo and play some of the most frustrating games I have ever seen. Granted it could be that we were too young to actually understand a specific game like, say, Metal Gear. It could also be that some games were just too incredibly difficult. People actually have a term for this: Nintendo Hard. These were games that were so difficult they were nearly impossible. It was the kind of thing that caused many a kiddo to hurl the remote control in an original rage quit. Games like Contra and Double Dragon come to mind. To be honest, I can’t recall all of them; but Nintendo was hard, okay?
Each game came with a booklet that clued you in to how the game works. It would tell you about the characters or items. You could build a strategy and try to get past those really rough patches you played so often that the five minute cut of music still haunts your dreams. At the very back of the booklet there was a phone number. It was there to provide hints and tips for the game. Of course it had to have been something like $1.99 a minute (and get your parents’ permission) or something like that. I can only imagine the guy on the other line. Sounds like a sitcom. So you call in and you could find secret codes, hints to point in the right direction, whatever was necessary to beat the game. This morphed into the magazine Nintendo Power where each issue would provide all sorts of maps and hidden info that gave you a fighting chance. Eventually the Game Genie came out that basically hacked the game and would give things like unlimited lives and more. Today there are entire websites dedicated to providing ways for players to overcome, to basically cheat. They give codes for “god mode”. They give detailed walkthroughs to direct the best outcome in the game as possible. It’s not enough to enjoy a game. Now people want to master it. They want the game to bend to their own will and desires.
As I read the news and look at what is happening on college campuses, I think the mentality of cheats does not live in games alone. Granted I’m speaking in generalities but it seems to me that people today can’t handle reality. Either they pout while reporters ask why the game was lost or they attempt to remove a teacher who thinks humans might be able to talk to each other about differences instead of looking for micro-aggressive gremlins in every sentence. Our culture wants the easy direction, the walkthrough for life that will give the best job so that I can live most comfortably. We avoid a hard life as much as possible.
I’m not talking about working out or even working hard as a hard life. I am talking about life not going the way you want it to. I’m talking about staying with someone that everyone thinks you should divorce because it’s so gosh darn hard. I’m talking about bearing a child at the age of 19 even though it will change whether or not you go to college. I’m talking about growing old and having arthritis so bad that you need to push a walker even to get to the bathroom for the third time that night. We do everything we can to pretend like those things aren’t real or that they won’t happen to us. Divorce, abort, assisted suicide, these are all the quick fix. It’s our life hack that removes any need for us to actually consider that maybe suffering, although it sucks, is maybe not the worst thing in the world.
I’m not going to analogize the Bible like the manual that came with video games or like a walkthrough to tell you which direction in life to take. The Bible is NOT Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Oh brother. The Bible is about Jesus Christ and His work. Jesus didn’t come to merely tell us how to be good. He didn’t enter humanity to be a springboard into heaven. Jesus is the Suffering Servant. He suffered on a level we can never imagine. Sure, He asked for the cup to pass but the final word was “not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) The Christian story is about trials and tribulations, suffering, and in the midst of that we have the One who suffered on our behalf. As Paul said, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:2b-4)
Maybe people these days are hopeless because they haven’t really suffered. Maybe we lack character because we have no endurance for suffering. Maybe we think that suffering is when we get whole milk instead of skim in our latte or maybe it’s because we can’t handle sarcasm anymore. Suffering is when broken humans deal with the reality that we are not in control. We don’t have to create situations where we suffer. That’s stupid. We simply do not look for the easy way out if it conflicts with God’s Word, even if life is painful or even uncomfortable.
We can only receive real hope because of what Jesus has done for us. He did not take the easy way out. He was The Suffering Servant, our King. You cannot insulate yourself from suffering forever. Although we might suffer for a time, it develops what is good and looks to the work of Christ on our behalf. That’s the best part. We’re not God but we do know that God, especially in Christ, is for us.
P.S. This whole micro-aggression thing is stupid.