In both single- and multi-player video games, navigation is often key to success. Whether a “mini-map” (to show walls and obstacles in the environment) or “radar” (to show allies, opponents, or destinations), knowing what is around us and where we should go is often critical to getting through a level or mission.
In fact, back in the day, when playing multiplayer Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 with my wife (and sometimes other friends), it was customary to disable the radar, so that it wasn’t always obvious when another player was sneaking up on you. As I recall, this feature had to be unlocked by finishing a certain single-player mission within a given amount of time, so that was an early goal on new profiles, allowing one to have friends over to play split-screen without having that embarrassing map!
Although I could sometimes target slightly better than my wife and win with the explosive weapon sets, she has a fundamentally (and significantly) better sense of direction than me, so she rapidly memorized the maps and typically won with other weapon loadouts, as she topped off with the body armor whenever necessary.
As the state of the art in video games moved to open-world maps, another navigation convention surfaced: the column of light in the sky. These visible beacons provide gamers with a big-picture look at a destination, allowing them to see what environmental obstacles and other challenges stand in their way of getting to their destination.
While driving in the car, I have sometimes mentioned aloud that these waypoints would be helpful to have in real life. Without having to look down at a GPS or smartphone map, I could see where I was trying to get to in a big city, or glance off of the interstate during a long trip, to see where potential resupply stations (food, fuel, and restrooms) were located.
As usual, though, modern “inventions” aren’t always original. Like when science follows the engineering designs of the natural world, video game designers weren’t the first to provide visual directions:
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13:21-22 NIV
The fact is, God knows that we – both as individuals, and collectively – need some direction. Even with binoculars, satellite photos, and online information, our understanding of where we should go in life is still limited. Only Someone who sees all of time and space, whose very nature defines right versus wrong, and who loves us dearly, is qualified to say that He has the best instructions for us to follow.
God provides that knowledge in a variety of ways, from the messages He directed His followers to write down in the Bible before (and after) Jesus walked this earth, to the teachings of Jesus and the daily guidance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who choose to listen. In some ways, these are like having always-current maps, a specific path drawn out that we can follow to our destination, and verbal instructions on individual actions for us to take.
It is still our choice whether or not to follow this guidance, but straying off the path (no matter how appealing the potential side quests might look) will not result in our being as successful as we can be if we stick to our mission.
As each of us navigate our individual path of life (since not everyone’s quest log is the same), there is one beacon that is common to every human being. Each of us started out in the game of life making bad decisions (i.e., sin), wasting our premium currency (i.e., the limited time that we have in our mortal lives), and getting off-track. God provided a beacon for everyone to get back on the path, though. Jesus said:
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
John 12:32 NIV
Jesus was first raised up on the cross as He heroically gave His life for other people (including you and me). Later, after His resurrection, He was raised up to heaven (see Acts 1:9-11). While I think that the verse above from John is typically interpreted as speaking of the former (Jesus’ death), both His roles as Savior and Lord can draw us to Him.
By choosing to meet Jesus, accepting His sacrifice as payment for our failures, and allowing Him to be our sole quest-giver, we can get back onto the right road towards the only endgame that is worth achieving.
As a result, while I have navigated my share of mini-maps in the virtual world, Jesus is my most reliable waypoint in real life. I hope that you can say the same.