There’s nothing like a solid stats increase in an RPG to get a gamer geek’s heart to thrill. (But I don’t know why my husband has to SHOUT so loudly when it happens for him. If I die by heart attack at an early age, now you’ll know why.) It’s funny how stoked we get seeing little digital numbers going up a few points to serve an algorithm that basically boils down to “bigger, stronger protagonists fight bigger, stronger enemies”. I wonder if anyone keeps a keen eye on those number increases to determine exactly how much they altered the amount of damage their playable character gives and receives. I know I never notice.
But I still love watching those level boosts.
Level-ups in life are even more satisfying (though they naturally take more work). You can’t help puffing up a bit when you cook that meal a little tastier, sew that stitch a little neater, grow that plant a little greener. In faith we want to pray a little longer, discern a little deeper, love a little greater, represent Christ a little closer. Commendable improvements, one can’t deny!
Except…well, is it always right to strive for higher life levels? Do you think a Christian should ever…let it go?
If you get too obsessed with those level-ups, you’ll start to grind. And while grinding in a game produces beefed-up, OP characters, in real life it typically results in crumbs.
If your aim is to get “better”, at which point does that become your target focus – even your idol – to the point of consuming the very faith you wish to improve?
With guidance from a mentor in my life, I came to the realization that if I stripped away my spiritual leveling, I didn’t really have a solid basis for my faith. Oh, the factual, logical foundation was there (another “stat” to continually improve, after all!)…
…but I realized I’d forgotten how to love God and I’d forgotten if He even loved me.
That epiphany strikes hard when life reminds you: Level-ups aren’t as permanent as your gaming diversions make them out to be. As humans, we fail. We forget. We backslide. When my level-ups became my hope of proving just how saved I was, I couldn’t hold onto grace beyond all my walls of works.
It’s a balancing act, to be sure. Paul said, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) But James said, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26) It’s the constant teeter-totter of Christian living and discussion, and maybe some fall on one end more than the other.
I can’t speak for those who willingly “sin more that grace may abound” (Romans 6:1). That’s not my struggle. I’m just an over-achiever seeking to understand a mercy that sometimes seems too free, like there should be a catch somewhere. In my efforts to be worthy of that mercy, what can I offer those who are hurting, empty, lonely, wondering if there’s something more? “Put your faith in Christ, because…you can do your best to live a good life?” That’s not going to cut it. Most already think living a good life is enough for this world.
So I, personally, am going to let go of the level-ups for a time. (Note: I’m not going wild, crazy, into debauchery. This isn’t my rebellious phase.) I want a love of God, and His love for me, to inform my improvements. Without that, I may as well be a clanging cymbal or repetitive level-up jingle.