I love games. Board games are a family favorite in my house. And when we got a Playstation, I would spend all afternoon on it playing video games. I was just telling someone about how I beat the whole Spiderman game except the last level. I couldn’t master the special jump I needed to get around the corners and evade the villain. To this day… I’m not going to lie – it still bothers me sometimes that I never beat it.
Of course now there’s a whole new world of game apps! When someone introduced me to Tiny Wings, I was instantly hooked.
If you’ve never played Tiny Wings before, the basic idea is that you navigate a little bird over these hills and if you do it just right, when you go down into the “valley” to get the points, it then launches you off the hilltop into the sky. And you do that over and over and over. If you have played it, then you know exactly how addictive the game is!
I was thinking the other day about the game and I wondered if the creator was thinking of the spiritual life when he made it! Ok, maybe he wasn’t. But here’s what I was reminded of when I thought about Tiny Wings in light of every Christian’s spiritual journey.
There are ups and downs in the spiritual life that you have to ride. You don’t have a choice. Ask anyone if they’ve had struggles in their life and if they are truthful, they’ll say yes. Jesus didn’t ever promise things would be easy. He said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” He also said blessed are the persecuted, the sorrowful, the hungry. He never said it’d be easy. If you sign up to play the game of life as a Christian, it’s inevitable that there will be ups and downs.
But, there is good news! In Tiny Wings you can earn prizes and points in the lows; in our faith, we can grow in virtue when we experience lows. The lows are not meant to be pointless. When we experience a low, we learn what it means to really cling to Christ in prayer. I’ve noticed that often, when life is great, (and I’m floating in the clouds) I forget to pray! However, when I’m struggling, I’m drawn closer to Christ’s heart to lean on him and learn his ways.
It’s the lows in life that help you to fly high the rest of the time. If we never experience what St. Ignatius calls “desolation,” everything is then mediocre, just “eh.” After desolation comes the “consolation” when everything is awesome with God. It’s natural to have both. You know how after months of winter snow and gloom the spring is exciting? (If you live in the south, just try to imagine this joy.) That’s how the spiritual life is – just like in Tiny Wings.
When you’re playing Tiny Wings you have to keep going straight. If you stop and dwell in the low valley, it’s game over. The same is true in the Christian life; you have to keep moving forward no matter what. Don’t change the path you’re on just because things get hard. God is always watching over us. He said, “Behold I am with you always until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20). Just because we grow more mature in our spiritual life, that doesn’t mean that we won’t have any more “lows.” It simply means we’re able to understand the lows and how to deal with them – with perseverance.
It puts that game in a whole new light don’t you think? The thing is – the spiritual life isn’t just a game. You can’t fold up the board when you want to be done. Instead, it determines what the rest of eternity is going to be for us!
It took me awhile to figure out this whole up and down thing. I thought it was my own dysfunction or failure that I wasn’t able to stay in the “happy/everything’s great with God” state. When I realized that the highs and lows are part of God’s plan to make me holier, and that all the saints went through it, I felt so free.
You don’t have to get a high score – you just have to ride the hills. Flap those tiny wings!
I’m praying for you.