From time to time I like to reflect on different facets of God . This is not to say that even with an infinite number of posts that it would be possible for us to completely convey everything about the nature of God, for there are some aspects of God’s workings and nature that will be mysterious to us so long as we are human beings seeking to understand the inscrutable workings of God. That said, I find it worthwhile at least, while knowing that my own thoughts are partial and limited, to at least view various aspects of God’s workings with us through the means of metaphors from those aspects that are within our experience. If we cannot understand God completely, at least the effort of extrapolating from our experiences can allow us to understand God in part and appreciate Him in ways that we might not think to do otherwise.
From my youth I have been fascinated and interested in role playing games. This interest has led me both to play tabletop roleplaying games (and read a great more about them) as well as video games. About the setup of video games I have nothing more to say now, because in such games one is the adventurer dealing with the design of games by someone else in a very narrow structure that does not allow for a great deal of flexibility. On the other hand, tabletop roleplaying games offer a great deal of flexibility and a certain sense of understanding one aspect of the nature of God’s actions in our lives. While my enjoyment of tabletop role playing did not particularly please my family when I was growing up, as it was a pleasure they did not share or approve of, it is one that I have found offers a certain degree of insight to the extent that we not only enjoy it but also think seriously about what it entails.
In tabletop roleplaying games, however one engages in the gameplay, there are two essential roles that must be filled. For one, there must be an adventuring party, and for another, there must be someone whose job it is to set up and enforce the rules of the game, who is called a dungeon master or loremaster or something else of that nature depending on the game. This person sets up the various challenges, divvies out the rewards, and engages in the random rolls as well as the adjudication of what the adventuring party does. The party can be rewarded for their cleverness or punished harshly for being heedless and ignorant. Fortunately for my own enjoyment of playing, I have often found the people I have played with in role playing games to do a good job at being inventive, and being both lucky and good when it came to gameplay, and I tend to think of myself as a fairly generous and easy-going judge of such things, quick to appreciate a clever solution by players while at the same time doing what I can to avoid favoring my own adventurer by making him a less than optimal source of information, usually by playing some sort of inarticulate barbarian character from whom little insight but plenty of comic relief can be found.
What facets of God’s nature can we understand from the role of the Dungeon Master? For one, it is the Dungeon Master who decides what sort of adventure the players will be undertaking. The players have some input in this, though. For example, if a group of players really wants some sort of obscure mushroom that can only be found in the Underdark in order to make some sort of poison for one’s arrows, then that will require a certain sort of mission to allow that item to be obtained. Likewise, if the characters really want to get inside the city of Hillsfar after having dealt with some issues in the area outside the city, that too will require a certain sort of work. And so it goes. And so it is in our lives. Our own longings and drives will determine in some part the places that we go, but at the same time God is in charge of our story, and He can move us around and stick us in various situations in order to challenge us and test our mettle.
For another, success often requires a certain degree of balance. Successful parties have to fill a variety of roles. In general, for example, you need some members of the party with a fair amount of strength to perform certain tasks and fill certain roles, some with a high degree of intellect and knowledge, others with enough dexterity to pick locks and make sure that the resources of an area are properly looted. This is a skill that many people have masters in real life as well. One person alone cannot do all that is necessary to solve the sort of epic problems that one faces in a game. There must be a multitude of counsel, and also, there must be people (however loosely defined in role playing terms) who are able to ensure that necessary roles are filled. When we look at Ephesians 4, for example, and look at the sort of jobs that must be filled by believers, to make for a body that is joined and knit together by people performing a variety of tasks for the benefit of everyone, we are looking at the same kind of unity that one finds in a well-functioning party, a unity that allows for challenges to be handled with conspicuous success.
To be sure, there is a fine degree of balancing and tension to be found in the challenges that God gives us in our lives and in the challenges we face in games. It would be easy for God to crush us in our own lives, just as it would be easy to send a group of low level characters and impossible foe that would simply crush them. But where would be the fun in that? What is fun is seeing a group of people (however loosely defined) handling challenges with skill but still finding it necessary to think of inventive solutions. And that is what makes life exciting as well, the presence of challenges that test us without crushing us, that give us the chance to increase our competence and confidence, encourage us to work with others in mutually beneficial relationships, and to have fun stories of adventures as well as the enjoyment of loot and experience to share with others. For life is a series of quests, and it is better to have other people to share those quests with, and to be able to appreciate the sort of challenge that God has in giving us the challenges we need in order to level up to become heroes of the faith who have been transformed into His own sons and daughters.
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