Kids growing up today will never understand the utter excitement that flooded a young child's heart when the Sears Catalog Christmas Edition came in the mail. As soon as it arrived I would throw myself down on the floor and tear through its pages until I reached the toy section. And there I would stop and stare, mesmerized...awestruck...totally and unashamedly drooling with wonder. Never had so many toys been seen at one time and place. Growing up in a small rural town, my choices for toy shopping were limited to the local K-mart. It didn't come close to what Sears advertised in that Christmas catalog; however, to me that dingy, fluorescent-bulb lit aisle was a magical pathway to Wonderland. Along those white metal shelves were rows and rows of multi-colored, plastic knobbed, stuffed & fluffed, wind-up wonders. I wasn't one to generally peruse the boardgame section - I was much more interested in the My Little Ponies and the Barbies. But when I did venture over to the boardgames, I was more of a Candyland and Chutes-and-Ladders kinda gal. One thing was absolutely certain: I was never going to venture over to the "gifted-kid" games like Risk or Chess. Not that I didn't try Chess. Oh, I tried it - for like .3 seconds, I tried it - before I figured out that this was never going to be my game. It required concentration. It required finesse. It required strategy. Three things I did not enjoy doing outside of school (not to mention there was no sinking battleships or hungry hippopotamuses involved).
But another game I avoided was the Ouija Board. I remember the first time I saw it sitting on that metal shelf in Kmart, advertised in the everyday cardboard packaging of Parker Brothers. I was honestly stunned to see it sitting there among the other games - as if it was the same as Lite Brite or MouseTrap. I guess I had always assumed that the Ouija Board was forged in the fires of Mordor and then sold in the clandestine Spencers in the mall (usually located next to Sam Goody - may it rest in peace). I'll never forget staring at that box and being shocked at how normal it appeared. My upbringing had instilled in me an awareness of the supernatural world around me. I had believed in angels and demons for as long as I could remember. My heart had been fully won by Jesus and His Spirit had filled me early in life. Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I heard stories and saw with my own eyes the effects of the supernatural world - both holy and evil alike. So, this board was no temptation and of no interest to me. But I had heard stories around the lunch table sometimes. There were plenty of kids that were eager to share their spooky stories of lighting candles and putting their fingers delicately on the planchette as they asked the Ouija Board if their secret crush liked them back. "Then," they would say wide-eyed as they dipped another tater-tot in ketchup, "the piece moved all by itself to the word 'yes'! I didn't move it! I promise, ya'll! It moved by itself!" and the other kids around the lunch table would oooh and aaah as goosebumps covered their arms. I would usually sigh, munch on a tot while praying a silent prayer, and then cast my eyes over to the gifted kids table as they played Chessmaster on their Gameboys. It was a world away from the games these kids were playing.
Little did I know then what a "world-away" today would feel like. I mean - think about it: If 2020 was a board game, it would be the weirdest game ever created. A strange concoction of Ker-plunk's precariousness, Twister's awkwardness, Monopoly's economic volatility, Guess Who's election technique, and Simon's better-keep-up-utter-guess-work all thrown onto a board, with a little bit of Clue's who-killed-Epstien on the side. Oh, yeah - then drop the whole board into a global pandemic and there you have 2020 The Board Game. But along with all the precarious, pandemic-filled, political problems this past year brought comes another problem: that of the will of the Lord. From lack of prophetic vision about the virus to the absolute certainty of the prophets about the president, the church in America sure didn't see things happening the way they did. And all of these issues need to be discussed at length among church leaders if we are to become a healthy, mature bride. But also, we must all - leader and lay-person alike - stop and ask ourselves an important question: how do I view the will of God? Is the will of God guaranteed? Is it something that can be changed? Or is it both?
To dig into that question, let's go back to that childhood school cafeteria. At one table you have the Chessboard players; at another, the Ouija Board kids. The first board laid out with it's black and white squares requires strategy and intelligence; it's a game that allows for free-will and yet, when put into the hands of a Chessmaster versus an amateur, even the best laid plans are impossible to beat. The other board requires no strategy whatsoever - just hands placed on a planchette that will be moved at random; the only "master" here is the unseen one that controls it all. There is no need to strategize, then, because the unseen master will move the piece when and if he desires.
Imagine now that these two boards represent two varying views towards the will of God. We as believers must ask ourselves: Which board is God's will most like? Are we all simply the planchette on a cosmic Ouija Board of history that God moves as he wills? Does he move us to his "yes" and move us to his "no" on the great board of life and whatever happens is meant to happen? Or is history actually likened to a chess board with God as the Master Chess Designer who has infinite winning moves already mapped out in his head; that way, no matter how the pawns or the kings and queens plot and plan, He will have the final "check-mate"?
I believe that the bible clearly states that God has the final say while allowing His creation to make their own moves as they see fit. Now, I firmly believe that we His children are given the gift of free-will in order that we may partner with Him in advancing His kingdom. We may make a wrong move now and then, but God "causes all things to work together for those that love Him," because He's the Master Chessman - He can fix our mistakes. Just because He has given us the ability to make our own choices and decisions doesn't mean he's not involved in the daily details of our lives. On the contrary, He is there releasing His plan into our lives, working and rearranging his perfection among our imperfection. The point I want the Body to understand is if we flippantly say, "God is on his throne," as if to say, "Oh, well, I have no responsibility here; I'm just a planchette in history," then we are missing the greatest chance to be the answer to Jesus' prayer to see HIS will be done on the earth. We are called to "strategize" with the Lord through prayer - to hear His heart and release His will on the earth. We are called to love mercy AND to DO justice. This is our part to play in the beautiful board of life. We pray and take steps of faith onto the squares before us and sometimes those steps are into the blackness of uncertainty and other times, they are steps into the white light of assurance. But all the while, we can trust that God is working all things together with us and for us...and yes, sometimes in spite of us.
But we all have a part to play. Many of us have been intimidated, however, by the "gifted-kids" approach to spirituality. We think it's just a few chosen, really gifted, super skilled people that have supernatural gifts and/or important roles to play in moving God's will along. But nothing could be further from the truth! God has called us all into his family if you are in Christ! And in God's family - everyone gets a gift....and not just ONE, but many. Just like I did with that Sears Christmas Catalog, we can all come as eager children to His glorious word, flipping through the pages and finding all the wonders He has given us to use in His Kingdom. Gifts of healing, prophecy, kindness, love, hospitality, words of wisdom, creativity, prayers, faith, supernatural visitations, patience...his list of wondrous gifts goes on and on. And they are all there for the taking for those who will embark on the wonderful journey of partnering with the Master. This understanding of the Christian faith is a world away from the "other" approach earlier mentioned. It's true: this "chessmaster" approach takes skill, effort, and concentration - but in the end, it's a whole lot more fun. So, together let's walk down the aisle of history and not be tempted by the "whatever-will-be-will-be will of God" that's been marketed as normal by many mainstream believers; let's be bold enough to know we are the gifted kids - the kids who are being trained and fully gifted by the Chessmaster of history himself.