Picking a Fight With Boxers (And Words with Friends Players)

Scrabble is a pretty big thing in my family. It’s a generational thing. I grew up playing with my parents. I now play with my kids. We play on this board I’ve had for decades. It was the first to come out on a turn table. Before that, (youngsters) some people had to actually sit on the wrong side of the board and work upside down or sideways.
I am good at scrabble, in a big-fish-in-a-small-pond kind-of way. People that regularly go to tournaments crush me. And people who spend lots of time playing Words with Friends. But, to be honest, and I hope you won’t be offended, I consider most Words with Friends players to be lacking in a certain artistry. Most Words players have figured out a tremendous of cache of words they don’t know the meaning of, words that conveniently fit into tight spaces and which offer high scores, words they would never use in ordinary conversation. And so, lovingly, Words With Friends champions, I look down my nose a little bit at you.
Having offended half of my 4 readers, I should probably just keep return to my point.
When my kids were younger, we adults used to offer them some concessions to keep the game interteresting. For many years, they got 9 letters while we only get the standard 7. (That’s a much more significant advantage than you’d think.)
Recently, I realized I hadn’t actually won a scrabble game against them in quite some time. The 2-tile advantage failed at keeping the game interesting, as the kids skills grew.

There are all kinds of ways, of course, that we make games interesting when in competition those that have less skills than us. It’s not a new concept. As limited and finite individuals we give limited and finite advantages to our opponents to level the playing field.
I think there is some theological relevance here.
I am not saying that life is a game. But I am saying that there are a wide variety of reasons that we end up placing ourselves in oppositions to God.
And there is an interesting way in which God progresses.
If I was God, I would use my God-brains to instantly and uncompromisingly wipe my opponent quite utterly off the board.
Chess? I’d have mate in 5 turns.
Basketball? It would be like 5,000 to 0.
Uno? I would go out, and the other guy would have to count all the wild draw 4’s against him.
Boxing? A knock out before the other guy even leaves his corner.

You get the point.
Those kind of victories are certainly with God’s capacities.
But that’s not usually how God wins.
The cliché “He snatches victory out of the jaws of defeat” isn’t nearly strong enough to express it.
This is both a stretched metaphor and a little gross, so I hope you’ll forgive me this… But it is more like he Reigns suddenly victorious out of the very bowels of defeat.

Jesus died. He actually died and went to hell.
The other side actually won. For a time.
This is how God rolls. In playing chess, he would lose. But then the king would re-appear. And somehow where it reappears would place the other player in check mate.
In basketball, the final buzzer would ring. The game would be over. But then the judges would find that they missed calling a foul shout for Jesus. And they would a never-before-used rule, that said, in this one case, successfully making the foul shout would mean instant victory.
In Uno, the other guy would think he put his last card down. And then he would look, and he would see another card in his hand, and another, and another.
In Boxing, Jesus would go down. But then the other Boxer would realize what he’s done. He’d realize boxing is a dumb and barbaric sport, and he would give up boxing forever, before the ref reached the 10 count. (Hey! I have managed to offend boxing fans and Words With Friends fans in the same post!)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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