I’ve never been very good at chess. For the same reason I require Google maps to get to places I’ve been a million times before, couldn’t visualize my renovated kitchen until the day it was done, and lost any mastery of math after algebra 2, it’s just not my natural skill set: I can’t see moves and their potential variations, several steps ahead. As it happens, I’m really more of a checkers girl: I react.
But life is not a game of checkers; it’s much more like chess, with pieces moving all over the board, one step or many at a time, forward and backward, diagonally, and that deadly way the knight moves. When I was a kid, I called that piece the “horse”, and marveled at how he jumped one block up and one to the side, which I thought was so unorthodox and almost unfair. The knight can be tricky.
As I think about it, life may actually be more like Chutes and Ladders. From your spot on the board, you can look at the coming potential climbs and falls with a mixture of hope and dread, but you can’t predict how it will go on your turn, no matter how hard you try. It’s all a roll of the dice, and the older I get, the more I see: we are not in control.
But what if we had a teammate who was. What if He went ahead of us on the board, and managed our slides while preparing us for our successes. What if there were cushions and strategies and contingencies and recourse and recompense, all working behind the scenes for our good as we played? In a game like that, we could never lose.
To paraphrase Beth Moore, our God is outside of time but He is a God of timing. Our teammate, God, walks ahead of us on our timelines, ultimately fixing the things that we break. He puts people and places in motion long before we ever know that we need Him to. He is a rescuer, He is a builder of ruins, He is our savior in every day. He saves us from ourselves in our weakness, and He does it over and over again, as it says in Romans, for the good of those who love Him. Even when we can’t see how He works. Even in the very darkest of nights.
I would much prefer a game board in which the chutes were erased, and all we ever did was stroll and climb, stroll and climb. But the chutes come to us all, don’t they, when the bottom drops out in the guise of sudden illness, job loss, broken relationships, the death of those we love, the troubles that keep us up at night. Though no one would choose them, chutes are the ultimate classroom; you can learn things on that slide down and your struggling steps back that you could never learn anywhere else. Recovering, moving forward, and surviving: that’s how the game is won.
These days as we slip, slide, and sometimes seem to lose our forward momentum, it is a true thing to say that our falls are cushioned and our contingencies planned. Thanks be to God, we get another roll at the dice, another day to dawn, and the real knowledge that we’re never, ever, playing alone. In this game of life, imagine where the next turn could take us.
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