“I don’t want to play anymore.”
I remember when my grandchildren used to come to the house. In warmer weather they wanted to be outside to pick the garden of still-green fruit or pluck the flowers or maybe just pick up rocks. Wandering around the yard like little ducks, stopping here and there to point and stare at wondrous things so often overlooked by the rest of us on our way to somewhere. Little ones are just . . . there. Where they are is the somewhere that matters.
On colder days, my grandchildren would dash down the hall and head for the toy room, a place that still held the baby bed in which all five of our children had slept and in which some of our grandchildren had risen from their own naps to stand and point at games and dolls and briefly-wanted things beyond their reach. Help was always on the way.
“Anyone want to play?”
And, if not answered quickly enough and affirmatively enough?
“Play with me.”
And two little hands would hold a box and look above it to gauge the expression of the bigger one who is being roped in and will soon sit creaked and cross-legged on the floor and unfold the board and place the plastic markers to begin the game. With patience, toss the dice and move the player pieces when they reach a point on the board too distant for the little arms to reach. Put them back in place when a tiny sneaker kicks and skews the game, sending pieces flying. Set it right again and go on.
Patience. Someone will win. Or someone will get hungry. Or distracted. Or called away.
My grandson loved the idea of chutes and ladders — climbing and sliding — but he also was pretty clued in on winning. When he learned that the chutes (slides) would take him back where he’d been, he would try to skip them and head for the next ladder, falling back on the can’t-count-good excuse that sometimes works for children. Enforce the rules and a few chutes more . . . and you see a little face slowly turn serious.
“I don’t want to play anymore.”
A lot of times, no one won “Chutes and Ladders.” There were always other games to play. Or cookies.
Who can blame him for wanting to win? When you think about it, embracing the ladders, the hard climb up, should make you a winner. Who puts those dumb chutes in the way, sending us sliding back down, starring at empty spaces . . . and more ladders? Life gets tiring and the finish line — the victory — seems to just slide away, so close and yet so far.
During the long, long struggle to find victory over sexual addictions — unwanted same-sex attraction, pornography, lust, idolatry — we long for ladders that will take us up and out to higher places and clearer views. Who puts those dumb chutes in the way?
Two steps off the ladder and your skimming down the loneliness slide. “Where did everyone go?” becomes “where is someone?” Anyone? And there you are, searching and seeking, not where the ladders lead, but in the pits at the base of the slide where what looks like love and feels like love will do for love for now. Yippee . . . the wind from the wild slide blowing through your hair as you glide into the mud at the base. Well . . . that was fun, as they say, for a season.
Crawl to a ladder. Hold on, rung by rung, eyes straight ahead, resisting the impulse to slip over to the slide nearby and go for another ride. Remember . . . those things only go down.
I rarely see God as a grandfatherly being. I have always pictured him as benevolent, willing to reward richly those who try and those who cry and those who need and those who want and those who seek and those who speak . . . to Him. He’s the Master of the ladder. “Know my Son? Take a rung.”
Like me with my grandson, God occasionally just has to enforce the rules. You roll the dice and there you are standing at the edge of a chute and God says . . . go. There will be a ladder down there when you land, and if you get up and climb again, you will eventually finish this . . . game? It’s not a game at all. It’s just the way. And it does take a will. Conformed to His.
What really often happens is we decide — from weariness or loneliness or hopelessness — we can just change the rules . . . and all those ladder-defectors say Amen.
Life gets easier under the new rules. The mud gets cushy and familiar. We want chutes of grace and slides of glory, but no ladders of righteousness or steps of repentance. Before long, we forget to even look up. Who knew there was a way out of here? Who wants to leave anyway? This is culture at its coolest. After all, aren’t we supposed to love each other?
It’s very dark at the base of the chutes and before long the light at the top of the ladder looks like the farthest star. How cozy. How choking.
You can do this. Keep your eyes focused on that distant light which comes closer with each rung you put behind you. Ignore — it’s not cruel to do so — the calls of culture coming from those who want to re-write your journey as they slide by you on the chutes, hip-hollering and smiling all the way down, trying to make you feel dumb for all your exertion.
You’ve heard all the arguments and they really do have it wrong, no matter how self-revealed they may be. Some of them know, deep inside, that they’re wrong, and are prolonging the inevitable climb from the mud. Others may never know . . . unless perhaps those of us who scale the last rung, call down, lean over and extend the hand that makes the climb more likely for others.
Focus and you will find that God does not ever lead us into meandering. Every step along His path is progress. He even told us how to stay on course.THINK.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. — Philippians 4:8
Focus on whatever is true. (Step on the ladder.)
Focus on whatever is noble. (Take another rung.)
Focus on whatever is right. (And another.)
Focus on whatever is pure. (And another.)
Focus on whatever is lovely. (And another.)
Focus on whatever is admirable. (And another.)
Focus on on whatever is excellent. (And another.)
Focus on whatever is praiseworthy. (You’re there.)
Think. When you find yourself in the deepest pit of sexual out-of-controlness, or listening to the voices that try to convince you you are on an impossible chase en route to an inevitable self-acceptance that collides with every description of God’s desire for you, what are you thinking? Of the truth . . . or in desperate search for a palatable lie? Of something noble . . . or something passable? Of something really right . . . or something someone just tells you is? Of something pure . . . or putrid? Something lovely . . . or something self-satisfying? Something admirable . . . or some place to hide? Something excellent . . . or something barely mediocre? Something praiseworthy . . . or something that separates you from the One worthy of praise?
So kick the board with your sneakers and send the pieces flailing and get that serious look on your face and look up from your cross-legged position on the floor.
Just tell God . . . “I don’t want to play anymore.”
Maybe it’s finally time to leave the toy room behind and go outside.
(Thom Hunter’s book, Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, from WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson, can help you minister to friends, family and church members who struggle with sexual issues. It is available at Amazon.com.)