Thursday, November 8, 2012


I didn't learn to play minesweeper until my senior year of high school.  Oh, I'd had a computer before then and thought that I'd been playing.  But one day in physics lab, a classmate opened a mindless grid and started clicking away, and I told him I hated that game.

It is impossible to win.

Because I hadn't read the rules; I'd just sort of tried to pick it up.  And I absolutely believed that all those little numbers that show up behind this or that square were points.  It wasn't counting my points anywhere, and some squares had no points, but that was the nature of the game.  You didn't know where the mines might be.  The goal was to get the highest score before you blew yourself up.  That was minesweeper.  

I wasn't very good.

My classmate explained that those numbers are not points.  After he stopped laughing at me and giving me this incredulous, sideways-headed look because after all, we were sitting in an Advanced Placement second-year physics lab.  You don't get in a place like that without some measure of brains.

The numbers, he said, tell you how many mines are adjacent to that square.  The goal, he said, is to clear every space that isn't a mine.  The goal, he said, is to not blow yourself up.

Here I was thinking the explosion was inevitable.

It's kind of easy to live life the way I used to play minesweeper.  Not having a rulebook, not knowing what the name of the game is, but just kind of clicking your way through and trying to rack up as many points as you can before, eventually, you blow yourself up.  Thinking there has to be a point tally somewhere, even if it's not showing for you.  Believing there's no way to know what's under the next square...or around the next corner.  Lamenting that this is impossible.  There's no way to win.

But there is a rulebook.  There is guiding information that tells us what this game is all about.  There is a set of directions for figuring out this grid we're on.

And what that rulebook tells us is this: the game is not blind.

You have to clue in to what's happening around you so that you gain some clues as to what's going on.  You have to look around, look up, stop for a second and think about where you are.  Is there a trap to your left?  An opportunity to your right?  And no matter where you look, you can't just settle for this mass of grey nothingness.  Behind every little section is something new, something to discover.  

The numbers in minesweeper are different colors.  Look at the colors all around you.  Look at the way your world is put together.  And make a move.  Because you don't get anything if you don't start clearing the board.

And yes, that means sometimes, you blow yourself up.  It means you take a miscue here and there and choose a wrong move now and then.

But it also means that sometimes, you blow this thing wide open.  Sometimes, you hit on something that takes away a whole grand space of nothingness and butts you right back up against an opportunity to make a new move.  You're either going to clear new space or you're going to blow something up.  Either way, you're poised to move.

There are no points in minesweeper.  There are no points in life.  Just the chance to start moving, to take notice of where you are and what lies before you, where opportunity sits in wait and where disaster is set like a trap.  It's a chance to chart a journey, to make it through, to clear the board.

Some days I sit and look at the board in front of me, and the opportunities and blessings God has designed just for me.  And I think how cool it would be to hit every one of them, to clear this board and live as fully as God created me to live.

I'm not scoring any points here, but I'm making a calculated move.  I think it's worth risking to blow this thing up if there's the good chance, too, that I'm about to blow this thing open.

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