Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Link to "Romantic Interest".

I'm completely stealing from someone else's blog, but I think it's okay. Back in February I wrote a post as part of a series on singleness for a blog called Yub Nub Cafe (it just so happened to get released on Valentine's Day).

The post is titled "Romantic Interest" and aims to remind us that we are not writing our own love story.


Little Dragons, Little Kingdoms

Sometime last year I was playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 with my roommate Andrew. We both played frequently, but he always seemed to have an edge on me (something about him being homeschooled, I think).  Anyway, we were playing the game, trying to wipe out each other’s respective armies, and he was kicking my butt. I forget what exactly happened, I just remember charging through the jungle of some alien planet (in a galaxy far far away) when Andrew blindsided me with blaster fire and killed me…again.

My frustration boiled over. Watching my character fall limply to the dirt, I gritted my teeth, tossed my controller and very vehemently vocalized my displeasure. Now I don’t mean I grumbled some safe Christian cusswords like “gosh-darn-it” or “Da-gum!”. This was some full-fledged PG-13 profanity (feel free to use your imagination). 

I’m not prone to random fits of anger, nor do I struggle with cussing, so my outburst came as a complete surprise to me and my roommate. It wasn’t as if I were dealing with a personal frustration at the time. It was just the game that got me so riled up. It’s a little bit embarrassing to admit, but the times I can remember being the angriest have been playing games.
And while I haven’t spent tons of time playing the most involved video games (World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, etc.), but I’ve seen so many guys get unspeakably angry when their game doesn’t go their way. I’ve even seen grown men reduced to childlike tantrums after dying in a game of Super Mario.
So why do we get so angry over this stuff? Why is it that we go to something for a break or to “blow off some steam” and come away no better, or even angrier, than we were before?
I was talking to my friend John about this, and he hit the nail right on the head. “It’s the promise of a perfect reality” speaking of video games “and when someone janks with that you’re all like ‘What the heck!” 

And he’s right. Video games deliver a great promise. Enter a world where you are a brave warrior or a have super powers or an elite NFL quarterback. You get to live an adventure, fight dragons, save the kingdom, be the hero, but you needn’t even risk leaving the house (or even putting on pants). You bury yourself into a perfect little world where you have absolute control…until the perfect world kills you.

So what are we really after? What are we looking for when we plug in to a console for hours at a time? I can’t imagine that it’s the sensation of becoming a super human version of ourselves. That has plenty of cool factor, but that quickly wears off. There is some part of us, tucked away deep in the deep recesses of our heart that is crying out in need of some adventure, something that we don’t get in our real life of our job, our commute, and our bills.

 John Eldredge pointed out something like that only with movies. He says “every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful…The Magnificent Seven, Shane, High Noon, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun, the Die Hard films, Gladiator – the movies a man loves reveal what his heart longs for, what is set inside him from the day of his birth.” (Wild at Heart)

Where did we get this idea in our heads that life is needs to be an adventure, that we are incomplete in the in the habits of a dangerless life? Is there a necessary part of our hearts that starves to death when we don’t step out our comfort zone?

If there is, then the games and the movies and anything else will never ever ever give us what we desire. We’ll just continue giving ourselves over to our pixelated hope and 2-Dimensional trophies, all the while our heart cries out for more. Fighting little dragons will only yield small rewards.

By way of disclaimer, let me emphasize that I’m not saying never ever play video games or watch movies or take part in any kind of downtime activity. I’d be the grandest of hypocrites if that was the point of all this. All those things are great. Indeed, God has hardwired many of us to respond to the beauty and excitement in such things, but that is not the ultimate goal. It’s more like a road map, showing us the way to something better. 

I can’t tell you what your ultimate adventure is, nor where it lies, but I don’t believe God would put the adventurous spirit in us unless there were something that was meant to fulfill it. The adventure you seek isn’t on Xbox live or buried somewhere in your Netflix queue. Seeking it there will only frustrate you.

If you finding yourself cussing out your controller for the um-teenth time today, try unplugging yourself for a bit, step outside, take a chance and see what danger’s you can overcome in the real world (and, please, do remember to wear pants).

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bros before Pros

                The first year I watched any kind of pro-football was January 1996, when I was almost 9-years-old. The Dallas Cowboys were playing in Super Bowl XXX and I decided to cheer for them (probably because I liked the colors). Over the next few seasons, I followed a handful of different teams, but eventually my loyalties to the Cubs and the Bulls led me to become a full fledged Chicago Bears fan. It also fit because the Bears are rivals with the Green Bay Packers, who I’d been cheering against since my Cowboy days.
                 Fast forward a couple of years. I’ve been a member at Vine church in Carbondale for several years and blessed with a great church family. Among my closest friends are John, a husky Wisconsinite who people say could be my twin, and Colin, a super outgoing guy and one of my roommates. We’ve been through a lot together and I’ve come to love them both as brothers, usually greeting each other with giant bear hugs, which occasionally turn into impromptu wrestling matches. (Boys will be boys).
                The problem is both of these awesome guys are Green Bay fans. In truth, it doesn’t come up all that often. We have enough else in common that the normal conversation flow isn’t interrupted by Bears/Packers arguments. For a long time, though, I avoided the topic. In my experience, arguments over sports would usually dissolve into bickering and name calling and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. I resorted to be a private fan, watching and cheering for my team, but avoiding most of the jaw-jacking.
                It all came to a head in the 2010-2011 season when the Bears and Packers met in the playoffs. Without lingering on it too much, the Packers blew the Bears out of the water on their way to another Super Bowl victory. What was worse was that they showed the game at the church, so I was among a mixed crowd of Green Bay and Chicago fans. I sulked in my chair, shrugging off the elated cheers of the Packer-nation.
                Two Sundays later, when the Packers were playing in the Super Bowl, I ran into John before church. He was wearing a Packers hoodie and scarf and, to top it off, a giant foam cheese head. John stretched out his arms, looking for a hug. My first reaction was to back pedal. “I won’t even touch while you’re wearing that stuff,” I said. I thought he was trying to rub the Packer’s triumph in my face. But that wasn’t his intent at all. “Man, I’m just happy to see you.” He said. And he couldn’t have been more genuine, which was a stretch for me.
                I got stretched even more when Colin and I moved in together. Neither of us are obsessive fans, but the TV is usually tuned into the games on Sunday afternoons. It’s hard to explain, but there’s kind of a “Bizarro World” feel watching him cheer for the Green Bay. It’s like being caught behind enemy lines, except “enemy territory” is my living room. What’s even stranger is lately I’ve actually started feeling empathy for the Packers.
               Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping the fence here. My loyalties are firmly behind the Bears, but I feel for my friends when their team loses a heartbreaker in the last minute (even when it helps the Bears in the standings). I’m caught between my old resentments and my love and my respect for my best friends. It’s fun though. It’s a measure of trust that we can love our teams and even talk some smack without worrying other guy is taking it too personally. And besides that, it makes it a lot more interesting when we all sit down together to watch the Bears play the Packers...kinda like the end of the regular season this year.
              In case you didn’t watch, the Bears and Packers played in the final game of the regular season and the game was do-or-die for both teams. The winner went to the playoffs. The loser was done for the season. A group of eleven of us went to Chilis to watch the game, with an almost even split of Bears and Packers fans. We shared some great food and some good laughs, but a handful of people, including Colin and John, had to leave in the middle of the game for the evening church service. In the end it was a great game…and the Bears lost.
              At home, I sulked in my room playing an old Madden NFL games on my PS2, reciting to myself that oh-so-familiar Chicago sports mantra “Wait 'til next year”. I heard Colin come in the back door and I cringed. I didn’t think he would come in and gloat, but one never could be sure. After a few minutes he knocked on my door and stepped in, still wearing his Packer’s hoodie. “Hey,” he said, with a faint smile “I love you.” “Thanks, man.” I said, nodding gingerly. And we left it at that. Later on we watched the Sunday Night game and talked about what we were up to next week.
John and I at Chilis watching the Bear/Packers game.
              Now I’m kind of tempted to tie this all together with a verse about “bearing with one another” or about how “perfect love overlooks an offense” and but I kinda like my way of saying it: “Bros before pros, ‘nuff said.”