Strategic Risks

Dominion - that's the name of the game my husband and son brought home yesterday and consumed the rest of our day. It's one of those strategy oriented, European looking games you can only get at specialty game shops or on the Internet or such. It requires a lot of set up and has a book full of instructions. Not normally my style, but since it's the Christmas season and I'm all into family time and since my husband was good natured enough to play Taboo (the game I got for Christmas) the night before, I agreed to play with my two men.

And I whooped them!

Six games out of seven!

Who would have thought that I'd enjoy such a manly-looking game? But I did. And I liked the game too. Sure I was winning, over and over and over... But I also just really liked the game.

After I went to bed I thought about whether the game was more of a strategy game or based on luck. I decided, since I was winning so much and all, that it's definitely a strategy game. But there's also an element of luck involved undoubtedly. (I'm sure James and Daniel would say, at this point, that it's all luck! Sorry guys. Just not true!)

And that got me to thinking about life. Not the board game. We played that one two days ago because it was my daughter's Christmas present. Believe me, no strategy involved there! The board game Life is all luck, or bad luck, as was the case with me.

But real life, if we're going to be winners, definitely requires a strategy. I think that's what the wealthy young man was inquiring about in Mark 10:17-22 when he rushed up to Jesus, fell on his knees before Him and said, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He wanted to know how to win.

Don't we all?

That's why there are things like self-help books, career counselors, life coaches, talk shows, women's magazines, and financial advisers. We all want to know the strategy for living well.

Well, Jesus gave this young man the strategy and I don't know if it sounded too simple or too extremely difficult, but he wondered off grieved and more confused than ever. Jesus had told him simply to forsake his old pursuits and values and follow Him. In other words, get a new strategy. Quit trying to accumulate the wealth so you can win, give it all away, and follow Me and do things My way instead.

And thus we have that perfect combination of strategy and risk. There is a winning strategy for living well, but it will require, seemingly, some risks on our part as well.

I say "seemingly" because once we've taken the risk, we find there was never any risk at all. Doing things Jesus' way is never a gamble; it just feels that way at the time.

Just last night I was tested in that. No, it wasn't while I was playing Dominion. It was during one of those very real moments of decision. A moment when I craved to look good to others, to look like I had it all together, but instead I probably looked quite foolish.

Last night I found myself in a situation where my reputation was seemingly on the line. I was plunged into a dilemma that was not of my own making but very much required my help. If I helped with a good attitude and without explaining myself to others I risked the chance that I might come out looking like I had been irresponsible, like I was late and negligent. My pride wanted to explain to others that this mess was not my fault, but that I had simply come to the rescue of another who had really blown it. But if I said anything it would make others feel bad. What would I do? Would I risk my own reputation in order to preserve the feelings of others? Or would I set everyone straight so that I came out looking good?

I knew one thing. I knew what Jesus' strategy was. It's very clearly written in His Word.

"Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." (Philippians 2:3-4 - The Message)

And yet it felt like such a risk to go with His strategy. Why is that? I've put Him to the test over and over and He has never failed me yet. And still, each time I come upon a crossroads where I must make a strategic decision about how I'm going to "play this hand," His strategy seems risky.

In the end, I went with the strategic words of Philippians 2:3-4. I kept silent and didn't try to explain myself or the irresponsible actions of another that had shed a bad light on me. I did it Jesus' way.

The verdict isn't in yet as to whether or not people saw me as incompetent and irresponsible. But at this point  others' opinions do not matter. I know I have chosen the right strategy, the one that ultimately wins every time.

And so, let me remind you one more time for the fun of it, I won Dominion six times out of seven last night.  I don't know if my winning streak was due to my smart strategy or just plain luck.

But with Jesus' strategy and no real risks involved, I win at Life every time.

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