How long does the game of Life last? Siri says it lasts for one and a half hours for three players, or two hours for four players. But that is just the Milton-Bradley board game. Lots of fun but little consequence. When the game is over, you just go to bed and play again the next day or whenever you want.
Not so the real game of life. According to Scripture one has roughly 70 to 80 years to get it right, give or take, depending on your genes and your health practices (Psalm 90:10). In The Great Divorce, one of C.S.Lewis’ most famous short novels, we get a picture of some folks who are given a “second chance” so to speak to change their fate. This book is his answer to Blake’s famous Marriage of Heaven and Hell. In it Blake argues that God is both good and evil and contains these “contraries” and that “God” only exists as an invention of man. There is no real “evil,” but only undeveloped reason and everyone has good and bad in them, thus Heaven and Hell are “married” in our minds and behavior. If we simply adjust or refine our behavior we can turn evil into good without rejecting any part of that evil that we wish to keep.
As Lewis says, “I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish, but their rescue is being put back on the right road. A sum can be put right, but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point; never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it . . . If we insist on keeping Hell (or even Earth) we shall not see Heaven; if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest souvenir of Hell” (or Earth).
In effect, if Satan, or Lucifer, that first “bearer of light,” could repent of his error, God’s love is so amazingly gracious and forgiving that even he would find mercy at God’s hands. The problem is that Lucifer has so hardened his view of God that he will not accept, cannot accept, that God is the Creator and supreme over the created. The same could become true of us as we grow older in this world. Every day we are either growing closer to God or slipping further away. Even Tom Hanks said, “We are still in the position of waking up and having a choice. Do I make the world better today somehow, or do I not bother?” Not exactly a paragon of theological understanding, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
For us to grow closer to God, sometimes we must backtrack over the past and allow God or others to correct us and head us onto a way that will draw us closer to Him. The pain of finding out that we have been going the wrong way does not get less the longer we stay on a path away from the Source of Light and Life. The farther we stray, the darker the way becomes; the less healthy we become; the more difficult changing directions becomes. Sometimes the choices we make cannot be undone, but these choices just make the path back to God harder and more painful. Trust me, I know.
We do not have an eternity to make the decisions that will determine eternity. We have “70 years, or 80, if our strength endures.” (Psalm 90:9-10) That is time enough for us to form our habits of thought, to make our decisions of life, to shape our spirits to be either ready for The God Who Is There to make us into what He created us to be, or to calcify our hearts so that we cannot hear His calling any more than Lucifer’s deaf ears; to make our spirits so small and shadowy that the slightest beam of light will pierce us through and leave us in the Shadows forever. “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
Turns out it is not a game at all. It is real life and the stakes are very high. Borrowing from another game, we have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card from Jesus (), but it will only be good as long as we are alive here on Earth. And the choices we make take us ever down another path, each step leading to another.
“Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve
Might have been saved.
“Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to see how near
They grazed the sirens’ land.
Wondering what subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great
Should thus entwine.
“Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth border
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
the Guide in Pilgrim’s Regress