The Crane Game

I was talking with a client about God and Christianity recently and, while describing his journey, he used this analogy:

“Believing in and trusting God is like playing one of those crane games at the arcade. The game is rigged against you. Its nearly impossible to get the stuffed animal out. Ever so often, you’ll get really close; close enough to keep you playing. But you’d be better off spending your time and money doing something else rather than wondering and hoping if you’ll ever get the prize.”cranegame

I can totally relate. It seems like sometimes God shows up in profound ways and renews hope and keeps me interested in Him. I get the prize. Then other times it feels like I’m steering the silly crane around, picking up stuffed animals that end up falling out of its grip, ultimately wasting time and quarters. I struggle with this, and I’ve never even been burned by church.

But my client has been. And so have many others. Being burned only serves to compound the confusion and frustration, making Christianity feel more rigged.

This really isn’t a ‘how to get past it’ post. It’s an ‘I’m sorry your faith journey has felt like an arcade’ post.

I apologize on behalf of the Church if you’ve been burned. I’m sorry that perhaps in the most difficult circumstances of your life it has felt like you couldn’t put enough quarters in the God machine to get him to react. I have no explanation for it. I don’t know why God shows up sometimes and seems a million miles away at others.

The good news is that being able to admit it feels rigged is a step in the right direction. Being able to confess that you feel gamed and even ripped off by God, the church and/or Christianity is a good place to start.  Maybe it’s time to quit plugging quarters in the machine and hoping to get a prize.  Instead it might be more fruitful, for a while, to simply do life with people that love you and are authentic about their own journey.

Owning Unintended Consequences

For a lot of us who struggle/have struggled with sexual integrity issues, there is a tension in owning our positive actions as well as those actions that bear unintended consequences.  As manipulative people, we tend to focus on one or the other depending on which one benefits us in the moment. Here’s what I mean: when we do things that contribute to our purity or to the protection of our wives hearts we want it to be acknowledged. We hope that our actions will be recognized, and that we’ll get a high-five for doing what we, in all likelihood, should have been doing in the first place. We want praise and affirmation for our positive actions.

Alternatively, when our actions have unintended consequences that cause hurt, pain or disappointment in the people around us, we want to take the spotlight off our actions. Instead, we want to highlight our intentions. It’s almost like we believe if we could convince the hurt person that we didn’t mean to do damage, that our heart was “in the right place” or that we were genuinely trying to do the right thing then we shouldn’t be culpable. We shouldn’t have to pay for something that we intended to be positive but happened to turn out negative.

Should we?

Perhaps we should. Maybe the healing thing to do is take responsibility; even for the unintended consequences of damage to those we love.  How might your life be different if you actually owned those situations that went south, even when you tried so diligently to make them go right?  Could the people in your life who’ve been hurt actually respect you more in the end?

Let’s make this tangible.  Have you ever had a restaurant mess up your order? Picture being at your local Asian food restaurant and ordering a favorite dish. Mine happens to be Kung Pao Chicken. A few minutes later the waiter drops a bowl of Pad Thai in front of you and says, “enjoy!”  Seeing your disappointment and surprise he asks what’s wrong. When you retort that you had your heart set on that delicious Kung Pao he replies, irked, with something along the lines of, “oh, sorry. I intended to put that order in but I guess it turned out wrong. Oops”. The end. Waiter walks away.

How would you feel? What would you want? Do you care who screwed up the order? Do you really want to hear whether he wrote it down wrong, or the kitchen was too busy, or the manager on duty just doesn’t run the place very well?  Chances are you just want them to own it and fix it. You might even be fine with the Pad Thai this time, but you are counting on that Kung Pao without a glitch next time.

Remember, if the person you’ve disappointed doesn’t ask for an explanation, then explanations will likely sound like excuses.