I thought I was winning.

This is something I wrote the first draft of a while back.  It’s . . controversial.

Oh well.

(I have to laugh as I write that.  If you know me, you know how crazy a thing that is for me to say.  But then, I’m crazy in love with the God I serve, to borrow from Francis Chan.  God is doing a work in my life, and it’s shocking to me that He would pick me or give me courage.  But wow, what does that say for you?  I mean, if God will allow me to be His child and give me courage, what on earth will He do if you ask Him?????)

I thought I was winning.

I was a gamer.  I wouldn’t say I was ever very good, but I was very practiced.  I bought video games, video games, video games, and I played video games, video games, video games.

I watched my first game when I was about 7 or so, and I was mesmerized.  I played my first game on a computer and I was hooked. 

And then the world of video games opened up for me, when I was about 10.

I played whenever I could.  I started dreaming about video games.  Whenever I was away from video games, I wanted to talk about them nonstop.  I found all kinds of ways to play video games without having video games of my own.  (A.K.A, going over to friends’ houses.)  I bought sheet music for video game songs.  I thought stories up about video game characters.  I even listened to a friend play her video game over the phone!

Best of all, I had a lot of friends who had video or computer games.  I didn’t mind just watching them, if they were single-player games, and they didn’t mind me watching them.  In fact, I loved it just as much as actually playing.  When they got bored, I could play.

When I at last got a system of my own, I played it as much as I possibly could.  By the time I was a teenager, I could go without friends to play video games.

I would often try to hide my video game playing as much as I could from my mom.  When I played video games, I became so consumed by them that I wouldn’t sleep until late at night.  I would eat junk food as I played, when it was convenient, and not do basically anything else.  I didn’t want to go to church, to have friends over, to go out anywhere–nothing.  I just wanted to play video games.  Summers–summers were games.

One time my mom got fed up and told me I couldn’t play anymore games for a week.  At that time, I was building roller coasters on the computer.  I thought I was going to flip.  I absolutely blew up.  I can’t remember what happened, but I think I eventually talked her out of it.  It was little like, I guess, what people talk about when they get high.  Video games were my “fix”–only, they weren’t.  I could play and play and play them, but within 10-20 minutes of being off, I was ready to go again.  If I really burned myself out, I could watch TV for about two hours (the downtime activity of choice) and then go right back.  That’s no fix.  That’s something breaking over and over and over again.

I didn’t want to sleep at night until I won a game, and since most games took days or weeks to win, I would go to sleep anxious and dissatisfied.  And once I won I game, I would feel lonely and immediately the urge to go buy another game.  There would be this desperate panic like, What if there isn’t another game this good?  I would get emotionally displaced in whatever game I was playing.  Those characters, those were who mattered to me.  Not, very much, the people around me.  And not, very much, God.  In fact, as long as I was playing a video game, I could pretty much not have to face God at all–or who I was in His sight.

I would play games with myself.  If I started feeling guilty–or too involved–in role-playing (alternative reality) games, I would play dinky games on the computer for hours, games like serving food to people in restaurants or baking cakes for everybody in a bakery.  Those were like bugs crawling around my mind, in a way, because I wanted so badly to do them perfectly, faster, better, more efficiently.  I will still, years later, have thoughts about the repetitive cycle of these games and trying to win, win, win, win.

My all-time favorite was a “collecting” game where you captured and collected and captured and collected.  I absolutely loved it.  It made that obsession part of my brain feel so satisfied to keep adding to the collection, yet so haunted to never be complete.  It would drive me to stare at a tiny screen of a handheld video game for hours and hours and hours.  This particular game kept track of how much time was spent on it, and I am telling you what, you wouldn’t even want to believe it.  I don’t want to believe it.  It was horrible.  I would wander around through the game chatting with game characters in dialogue, hearing their words over and over, when I was frustrated and couldn’t find anymore creatures to collect.  I would get multiple versions of the game to trade with myself so I could add to my collection.  It was crazy.  I thought it was wonderful, but somehow it was so miserable at the same time.

How do you stop something like this?  Well, I didn’t.  I kept playing and playing and playing.  I didn’t even try to stop.  I couldn’t imagine what life could be like if I stopped.  What was life beyond video games?  Now that may sound funny, or that may sound insane, but that is really how I felt.  Those games had a chokehold on me, and I thought they were the only way I could breathe.

What happened?  You know, here is the incredible thing about this story.  It was like God just said, Stop.  Enough is enough.  One day, it began bothering me.  The bother became a lot, I guess.  This is a vague time in my life I don’t remember much of.  I modified to less role-playing games.  But then, I got rid of all of them.  I can’t honestly tell you why.  It was just suddenly, God was like, No more.

I caved back in to buy a collection game and a handheld operator for myself when a new game came out.  I became obsessed with it as I had the others before it.  But something had changed.

I remember.  It was in the summer.

I shut myself in my bathroom and sobbed.

And then I got rid of all of it from my house.  Stuck it in a box.  It wound up in my garage.  I’ve never played it again.

I’ve been to friends’ houses and played games occasionally, but I have stopped even doing that.  God has made it so clear video games are not for me.  I literally, truly could not have worshiped video games more if I had built an altar and bowed down before them.  It was a religion for me, and I didn’t even look at it that way.  How could I have?  I wanted to be a Christian, even then.  I just didn’t want to follow Christ.  And therein lies the reason I was lost in a black, black abyss of a darkness.

Why did God save me from this?  Why did Christ open His love to me again and again?

I can’t answer that.  Oh my word, I can’t answer that.  But I can tell you this:

I used to think there was no rush like the rush I got in video games, that there was no victory like the victory I got in unlocking some new level, that there was no happiness like the fantasy of living life through a cartoon character.

Waking up from video games was waking up from a nightmare disguised as a dream.

I had to face how utterly stupid I had been to believe a bunch of pixels could save my soul, and how deliberately wasteful I had been with the time God had given me.

I tried to hide from myself when I saw how wicked I had really been.

Had I not known about the wars going on in the world?

Had I not know about the national disasters?

Had I not known about the seniors who sit in nursing homes every day with no one to visit them, waiting in vain?

Had I not known about the teenagers who commit suicide because they don’t believe there’s any hope?

Had I not know about the women who need a local pregnancy care center to help them in their time of crisis?

Had I not known about the children who die every day from poor nutrition and contaminated drinking water?

But I did know.

This is a haunt I deserve to have.

–But I don’t have it.

I deserve it, but I don’t have it.

Because Christ freed me.

Hallelujah, He did!

Satan really pulled the wool over my eyes.

I thought I was winning.

But I was losing.

–But that isn’t the whole story.  That’s nothin‘.  Here’s the story:

Christ won for me.

Christ won for me.

Not in my strength, in His.

And I know that any addiction you have (even if it is something people don’t traditionally consider to be an addiction, or even if it is societally acceptable), any idol, any altar to something you think you can’t live without . . .

Christ can free you, too.

When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the LORD God will live among us there. (Psalm 68:18, NLT)

Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:24, NLT)

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Published in: on February 3, 2012 at 9:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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