Going to be leaving the enneagram alone for a bit.Â It’s a useful tool, in that it can be a key that helps a person unlock the “box” of repeated, unconsciously motivated behavior patters they’re living in.Â But overusing it can become “decorating the box,” so to speak.
I ran across an intriguing statement in my readings this week. The writer is speaking about the teachings of Jesus.Â “This is a dangerous teaching.Â It could be abused.Â Anything that increases freedom is dangerous and can and will be abused.”
I think we try to “pad” the gospel in many ways, because it is dangerous information. Â Freedom creates risk. That’s a given.
I honestly think the source of most if not all legalism is a desire to pad the gospel, to make it “safer.”Â It comes from the same well-meaning instinct that caused the Jewish rabbis to create “hedge” laws.Â Hedge laws were laws that were created to keep people from getting too close to breaking the Mosaic law.Â The problem with that is, you never know when to stop.Â At some point, the hedge laws become tradition, making them important enough to require hedge laws of their own.Â By the time of Christ, the law had expanded in this way so far beyond the original 10 commandments that it was generally recognized that a person could not keep the law in its entirety. It was impossible.
When people are set up for failure, they become frustrated and give up even trying.Â Or they compare themselves to others, because that’s a standard where they have a shot at some kind of success.Â Legalism doesn’t work.
One of Chris’ favorite movies is Dangerous Minds, and not just because it features Michelle Pfieffer.Â In the movie, she tells a class that everyone else has written off that everyone will start out the year with an A.Â They don’t have to earn it.Â They just have to worry about not losing it.
This is grace.Â Grace begins from a point of success, where all the work has been done for you, instead of starting from not only a point of failure, but a point where even eventual success seems hopeless. Grace makes the task of doing well seem attainable.Â Grace keeps you trying.Â Grace allows you to compare where you are to where you were, and appreciate the process, instead of comparing where you are to where someone else is. Â Grace presents better options than legalism.
I’ve just started studying video game development (because I clearly need yet another hobby or interest.Â Insert eye-roll here.)Â But part of good game development is offering the player appealing options.Â You keep the player moving forward by presenting the possibilities of choice and success.Â Â A bad game is like a narrow maze; the “walls” bounding your choices are hard, clear, and obvious, with only one successful path possible.Â A good game camoflages, widens, or removes those walls altogether, presenting multiple paths and choices that will move you forward and allow you to succeed.
Of course, a game that’s too open-ended can be problematic, too.Â (Ask Chris why he’s never gotten into Morrowind.)Â If the game is too open-ended, you can wander around purposelessly forever.Â Without at least a few broad goals, it’s difficult to tell if you’re succeeding or even making any progress.Â The gameplay loses meaning without at least some touchpoints of progress.Â The best games present an appealing path (or multiple, parallel paths) that are clear enough to find with a little effort, but hidden enough to make finding them interesting and engaging.Â They present small rewards all along the path to keep you motivated and moving forward.Â They are challenging enough to be interesting but not so difficult that you give up completely.
Freedom creates risk.Â Freedom presents the opportunity to go off the map and crash the game completely.Â Freedom means some wrong turns and stupid moves are going to happen.Â Freedom means you could get stuck for a while without someone prodding you and a glaring neon sign saying “YOU MUST GO THIS WAY!”
Grace and providence are the implied good will of the Designer, who you can sense wants you to succeed and make your way through to the end.Â When you believe that the Designer created the game to beat you, you get angry, frustrated, and want to either give up or “show that @%^$& that he’s not going to beat you.” It’s a much different game when your image of the creator of it is that this is a person who is trying to challenge you rather than someone who is using his superior position to beat you.Â How angry do you get when you think a game has “cheated” you?Â Can you connect that anger to the feeling that God has set you up to fail in life?
What difference could it make if you believed He has guaranteed your success?Â That he wants you to progress, grow, get better, and that you’re going to win?Â What difference does it make to start with an A on your grade sheet, instead of the expected F? How much harder are you willing to fight to keep that A, or to keep it above a B or C, than you would have been willing to fight the F?
Something to chew on, anyway.