Achievements. 100%’s. Perfect runs. Full completion is so delicious, isn’t it? The feeling of doing everything right.
I’ve been developing my tactical skills in Fire Emblem lately – a series I’ve watched with a curious eye for years but only now decided to experience for myself. (You fellow fans can thank my boyfriend for that.) I already refuse to allow any party members perma-death (so many restarts…), but I also refuse any secrets to be spoiled for me on this first play through – which means I’m missing side quests. And items. And it isn’t a perfect run.
This is surprisingly bothersome.
A friend questioned me a while ago on something I’d written about our obedience to Christ coming out of love. And as in so many things, after playing some video games I now have something to say. Mind you, I’m just a young whippersnapper working out my faith (but aren’t we all whippersnappers to somebody?), so the Holy Spirit may lead me to different convictions as I grow.
John 14-17 are some of my favorite passages in the Bible. I find comfort and reassurance in these words Christ spoke before his crucifixion. (How amazing that moments before he would suffer terribly, our Savior was working instead to bring peace to us.) In one particularly bleak struggle with my sense of spiritual commitment, I came across John 14:15 –
“If you love me, keep my commands.”
Other translations offer the very slight difference, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” I’d always read this with a peer pressure tone – you know, the way “friends” try to get you to do things for them. “If you’re my buddy, you’ll give me the candy bar in your lunch.”
So Jesus became this cosmic bully to me. My solution: “I’m going to obey everything so Jesus knows I love him and so I can be on his good side.” Be chaste. Love others. Have unlimited amounts of patience. Put others before yourself. Make sure no one perma-dies. Don’t overlook any sidequests or recruits. (Oops, am I blurring realities now?)
But in all this…did I actually love Jesus? Or was I putting the cart before the horse? I didn’t do any of it with a full and confident heart. Mostly, I was stressed out – much like I am at the end of some Fire Emblem maps, wondering what I missed and what I could have achieved.
Jesus didn’t say, “If you keep my commands, you will love me.” The prerequisite is love. It’s intimately knowing the Savior’s character and choosing him when you personally understand his goodness and love for you. The thing about the bully approach is – if you aren’t that kid’s buddy, and you know he’s manipulative, you don’t have to give him jack squat.
I realized I needed to swap my thinking – and after years of reading the Bible looking for what I needed to “do better”, I read it to know the God I’d only pretended to trust for so long. When you love someone in authority, the choice to obey may still at times be difficult, but there’s gratitude in the action, and an understanding that this person is for your good.
It’s still tough to switch the thinking. At the start of every day I typically go straight for, “What do I need to do today?” rather than, “What do I need to know about God today?”. Best to seek that relationship before I assume what He wants.
And, you know, I can always play through Fire Emblem better next time…*neurotic perfectionist twitch*