Here's a wonderful guest post from my friend and podcast cohost, Ron Offringa.
As we talked about on The Christian Nerd Podcast, I've been obsessed with Destiny lately. Destiny was the first game I purchased for Playstation 4; in spite of some of its flaws, it’s addictive and fun to play.
One of Destiny’s massive flaws is that it doesn’t explain itself very well. Some of the gameplay is obvious but other important parts of the game are either very briefly explained or completely unmentioned.
For example “Moments of Triumph” are never mentioned. These “Moments of Triumph” are in-game tasks, for which you receive special emblems when accomplished. You can view your status in completing these tasks through the game’s app, not the game itself. This progress is hidden in different menus and I didn’t discover it until a few weeks ago. Of course, since I'm a nerd, I knew I wanted those emblems. There's something collectible for a limited time? I need it!
This past Saturday my wife, Katelyn, was planning on going out to see a movie with a friend so I knew I had a few hours in the evening to dedicate to my quest. However, one of my friends was able to play in the afternoon so instead of just playing for a few hours in the evening, I played for six or seven hours, only taking a small break for dinner.
My dog, Barnaby, was miserable. He kept moving around the room to find a new position to sleep, occasionally looking up at me to see if I had decided he was worthy of the slightest bit of attention. Around 10:00pm I looked over and he had the saddest look on his face. Even though Scott says Barnaby doesn't have a soul, I could tell he was hurt. My wife arrived home to find me in the same position in which she'd left me.
11:00pm rolled around and we still hadn't completed the mission so I told the team that I needed to call it quits because I had to get up early for church in the morning. I rolled into bed knowing full well that I had lost control. I felt just like Luke in Return of the Jedi:
Emperor Palpatine: You want this, don't you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.
The Emperor: It is unavoidable; it is your destiny...
That exchange between the Emperor and Luke has always haunted me. It's not just the way that Ian McDiarmid delivers his lines or his spooky makeup; the idea is terrifying. What if my destiny, the plan for my life, the sum of my choices, the thing I was created for... is evil? What if I give in to the things I know I shouldn't?
By playing Destiny for hour upon hour on Saturday (and plenty of hours during the week before that) I had unwittingly sold my schedule, my talents and my energy to earn an emblem that no one will care about in year five of Destiny, much less in real life. The worst part was that Katelyn didn't say a thing. She knew she didn't need to; my choices were so obviously wrong that she knew I would eventually come to my senses..
That Sunday in church before taking Communion we had a time for confession, like we always do. We usually say the same prayer, but like a song it can take on new meaning with time. The prayer opens, "Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone."
In that moment I knew the things that I had done wrong: I loved an in-app emblem more than my self, my dog, my wife and my God. I knew the things that I had left undone that I should have done: spent more time in prayer, worship, playing with my dog, relaxing with my wife, helping around the house, etc.
To be clear, it's not like my binge gaming brought my whole life and marriage to a crumble, but it was a stark reminder that humans, and nerds in particular, have a tendency towards obsession and collection. I wanted that emblem because it was rare and it was hidden inside the app and I saw other people getting it. It was so easy to get obsessed.
The thing about obsessive sins is that they're incredibly anti-Christian. Sure, any sin goes against what it means to be a Christian, but when we obsess over something we're giving it more attention than it deserves. We're choking out the witness of the Spirit in our hearts and disregarding the example the Father gave us in Jesus.
If I'm going to obsess over anything I want it to be Jesus. I want to know him better than any video game or comic book. I want to know what it looks like to emulate him and to share the good news he offers. That alone can ensure that I live out the destiny that God would have for me.
Have you ever found yourself trapped in an obsessive sin and what did you do to get out of it?