“If it's true I live in a world where hope has all but died, and if I really have a living love alive in me,
How am I letting it be known? How am I letting it be seen?
These are the signs, these are the signs of life: the love that proves there is a living faith inside…
These are the signs, these are the signs of life: the compassion and concern that make this world turn…
These are the signs of life!”

-Steven Curtis Chapman

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dominoes & Christ

In my continued exploration of the Cuban culture that makes up most of my church family, I’ve discovered something new: their passion for Dominoes. They can spend hours playing!

We were at the beach yesterday afternoon, and I watched four people play. I observed as dotted tiles first connected to form lines, then spread outward to cover the table. Each team battled for dominance as points were calculated. And as they played, two friends explained the strategy behind each move.

It turns out that the game isn’t based on whim or preference, or even about which tile is the most convenient to use. Instead, they made it clear that they not only analyzed the board in regards to their own potential plays, but they had to keep an eye on their partner’s plays (and passes), and simultaneously remember which numbers were the opposing team’s strengths and weaknesses. All of it was done without even the appearance of concentration - they were talking throughout the whole game! (While this conversation did take place in Spanish, I’m going to go out on a limb and say at some point, I’m pretty darn sure there was trash talking...)

The more I saw, the more tactics and strategy I found. From the first move to the final clack of the last tile thrown down, strategy was imperative. But a few minutes later, another friend (a fellow non-Cuban like myself) walked up to us, and made a comment that she saw no real strategy behind the game – she saw pieces being randomly selected, placed down wherever and whenever they fit. No skill needed, just a game of chance...

My friend and I were watching the same game – but our outlooks could not have been more different. Where I saw intricacy, she saw simplicity; where I saw expert choreography in strategic planning, she saw guesswork and chance colliding.

One game – two very different outlooks.

As my friend walked away from the game, I started to think… Which of these outlooks do I take when viewing God?

Do I view life as a rainbow of chaos, with God simply dropping the Domino tiles of my life wherever they fall? Is He simply letting the pieces land where they will, leaving it to chance if everything works out in the end? Or, do I see Him behind everything that happens in life – in both the good and the bad, the great and the devastating? Do I see His plans and choreography in every snapshot of my life?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28 – 30)

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

God isn’t just random. Each step is a carefully wrought – He chooses, calls, justifies… each moment planned with His wisdom and love for me at the front of His mind. He sanctifies, making me more like Him every day.

I love it, because it means that He is involved in every aspect of my life. There is a reassurance in that, because it means every moment is a step to becoming the righteous daughter God has already said I am.(1 Peter 2:9-10, Ephesians 1:4-6) But at the same time, it's hard, because it means that everything in my life happens because He allows it.

That means He allowed my mom’s brain aneurysm and near death last year - and He is working it for good. That means the events that forced me to start waitressing again is going to be worked out by God for good. Some hard things that are going on in the lives of friends and family will be worked out for good. It’s not whim or preference; it’s not just a game of chance. If all things are working together for the good of the ones who love Christ, He has a Strategy behind every move.

It wasn’t chance that had me working at a BBQ joint a few years back… it wasn’t luck that I managed to find the college that had everything I wanted, but didn’t yet know I needed… it wasn’t a fluke that I started taking an ASL class years ago… it wasn’t a twist of fate that Christ finally pierced my soul with His call and I became His. His hand lead to each pivotal moment that’s helped shape me into who I am. Expert choreography and intricacy, played out by the One who holds all the pieces in life is leading me to who I will someday be.

So as the game ended and I walked to the ocean to play in the waves, I realized that God’s strategy and planning didn’t just bring me to the current stage in my life: it brought me to the very beach that I stood on, to the very spot I watched Dominoes being played.

All things working together for good.

In Him,