tangled & unraveling

I didn’t have a video game system as a young kid or a computer, so when kids came over to the house and we wanted to play an indoor game, we often played board games.  Whenever I had friends over, we would pick one of my games to play over and over and over.  They never got boring to me.  (I played Candyland way, way, way past the suggested age.  What can I say? Candyland rocks.)

One of the game we played (with a higher suggested age limit) was a spaghetti game.  I don’t remember the name of it, and I don’t know why I don’t have it anymore.  Maybe it’s hidden in my garage somewhere or maybe it wound up in a garage sale.  The basic idea of the game was to get your “spaghetti” all wound up on your fork.

The “pizza” gameboard had lots of deep holes.  There were “topping” pegs (pegs with stickers on the top with a pizza topping image) you placed in the holes.  The topping pegs were pretty strong (I’ll tell you how I know in a minute).  There were forks attached to “spaghetti” (colored yarn), and the other end the yarn was attached to a plate.  The forks would pop into the plate so you could wind the yarn up.

The catch—literally—was that you were supposed to let the forks with the yarn “fall” over the topping pieces, looping around some of them.

Of course, that was not the way we played it.

We were kids.

We wound the yarn around as many topping pieces as we possibly could.  We would wind them multiple times around the same topping piece (which actually made it easier, but I guess we didn’t realize it then).  But we would get the yarn in ginormous messes.  Since it was a 4-player game, there was red, blue, yellow, and green yarn in absolute mess across the board.

We would have that yarn wound so tight, looking back I have to give the manufacturing company a lot of credit.  Almost always, the pegs would stay in place.  One might pop up if we yanked really, really hard and if it had a ridiculous amount of yarn wrapped around it.

In the game, players took turns rolling a die with different topping pictures on each side.  If you got a mushroom, for example, you could pull up any mushroom peg.  You would always try to pull up one that would help you—but since we wound the yarn so much, it would very often help at least one other person, too.  Then you’d wind up the yarn as fast as you could.  Again, the manufacturers must have known they were making this game for kids, because the durability was great.

. . . . . I was remembering that game today, thinking about my life.  Sometimes, my life seems like a big old mess of yarn all tangled around pegs.  I roll the die desperately to try to untangle some part, but then I end up enabling some enemy like bitterness or frustration to roll up part of their yarn, too.

I feel like I’m the one who’s got the most yarn still tangled on the field, while feelings like bitterness and frustration have reeled most of their yarn in.

Not only do I have to deal with the competition of my sin nature and the sins of others around me—all vying to win, too—but, as if that isn’t enough, lately I feel like every time I get a peg loose, Satan is finding another peg to wind and twist the yarn around.

What’s the point? I hear myself asking, and it is not a part of myself I like.  Why try?  What difference will it make?  What difference do you think you can make anyway?  You’ll only tangle things up worse if you try.

Well, with these “eager words of encouragement”, it’s kinda hard to feel motivated.  I want to just throw in the towel and say, “Okay, Satan, you won with me”—and stand back and wait for God to do all the work.  I want to lay down on the sidelines of the race and cheer for the Christian who is able to run faster or smarter or longer than me.

Giving up doesn’t do any good—and just about the whole world will tell you that.

But what most of the world won’t tell you is that trying your best won’t do you any good either.

I am convinced that there is no way I can ever untangle the mess in my life.  And, in case I ever forget that, all I have to do is pick the least tangled peg and try to uproot it to remember how useless and worthless my own efforts really are.

I am convinced that there is no way God is going to be pleased if I just throw my hands up and give up.  Jesus told a parable of a servant who hid his master’s money in the ground instead of earning more money with it, or even just depositing it in the bank (see Matthew 25:14-20).  In the parable, the master wasn’t pleased or even marginally tolerant of the servant’s laziness when he got back.  Instead he cast the servant out—forever.

What on earth is the solution?  I can’t “earn” the right to remove obstacles from my life, and even when I try, I can’t succeed.  But I am held responsible for the way my life is when I die.  I find myself empathizing with Paul when he says:

Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:24, NLT)

Fortunately, he doesn’t stop there.

Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. (Romans 7:25, NLT)

There are a lot of tangles in my life.  And there’s not a one of them I can undo.  But Christ can unwind every mess.  Christ doesn’t call me to passively sit back and watch, however.  He calls me to follow Him by faith, through grace, to clarity, peace, and the unraveling of sin.

In Him, I find the truth of who I can be through Him—and I can’t believe who He sees.  But through His untangling of my sin in His payment on the cross,  I can not only be forgiven forever—as if that is not astonishing enough—but restored, whole, walking on the straight-and-narrow.

It’s the glorious untangling that only Christ can offer through His payment for all our tangles.

I want to be untangled, Lord.

I’m ready.

Please unravel my sin through Your goodness you gave as payment on the cross.

“I tell you the truth, everyone who lives in sin is a slave to sin. A slave does not stay with a family forever, but a son belongs to the family forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be truly free.” (John 8:34b-36, NCV)


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