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You may think as highly of computer games as of an army squadron just back from a muddy hike tromping over your carpet in combat boots. That’s about how much I value them. But God really does ‘turn all things to the good’ for moms who raise their children according to the formula, “Anything you enjoy can be turned into a teaching tool!”
I discovered this on uttering a prayer of exasperation one day. The kids were just not taking the hints that I was about to reach my absolute limit of patience and calm, cool demeanor. Hints like the low growl before each answer to another question; the dark look on being interrupted during bill-paying for the next installment of last night’s dream sequence; the forced smile before guessing answers to the ninety-fifth riddle invented by the seven year old that morning. In answer to the “God, please help me” I forced through clenched teeth, my mind was flooded with insight.
I beheld, as it were in a vision, a mother on a computer screen. As I described the revelation, the children listened in awe. Surely, they had pushed all the right buttons to have caused a first-class mommy explosion by now. Something supernatural was definitely happening.
Picture mom like one of your computer games. Think of the little bars and graphs and digital read-outs that show how much fuel you have left, how many lives you have used up, how strong or well-equipped you are. You have to go through the maze, or the mine field or find the hidden treasure while keeping in mind all those indicators, or you might not be able to finish the game.
Well, if mom gets to the end of the day without blowing up, in our game, we all win. I start the day with 100% patience, the ability to withstand a certain number of interruptions and annoyances, and my physical endurance tank is about 75% full. As you and all the other ‘players’ around here proceed through chores, bickering, schoolwork, complaining, meals, crying, and very loud playing, we use up my patience, endurance, and irritation capacity little by little. If I’m especially tired, the patience level might start at only 50%! When you see that indicator, you’ve got to go through the obstacle course more slowly and carefully. If your teammates are using up ‘irritant-adaptation units’ faster than we can replace them, you must be more careful not to drain the supply yourself, or you may be in for a crash. You have to work together.
But how do we replace them. There’s always supposed to be something you can grab, or someplace on the screen you can go to for more energy or fuel.
All my supply tanks show increase when your attitudes are good, when you are kind to each other, when I hear you laughing, when you do anything helpful or thoughtful, and when we pray.
What if the babies use it all up and we can’t do anything about it because they’re too little to understand?
Good question. I’m sure that has happened before, and it’s my fault. I should do what I can to get those levels back up so you’ll have what you need from me to finish the game. Also, it’s up to me to sound the alarm when supplies are running low so we can change course to ‘tank up’ instead of rushing headlong into disaster.
You mean we’re all on the same team?
You bet! It’s a multi-player game.
So, the kids heard me speaking a language they understood; my power base was recharged and my empty tanks refueled by the interlude of rapt attention; disaster was narrowly avoided and all systems were ‘GO’ for the start of another round. I never would have believed the day would come that I’d whisper a prayer of thanks for computer games.
This article appeared originally in Canticle magazine. Since then, I’ve become much better able to keep my supply tanks full by soaking in Sabbath rest! May you do the same, and enjoy spreading the joy of holy leisure to other players in the great game of life.