This quarantine season we’ve been playing a lot of cards. The current favorite involves a specialized deck which includes two very specialized cards: the wild card and the skip card. Obviously these are the prized possessions each round. And no matter how much I try to encourage my kids to keep a poker face they can’t help but at least hint they have something in their hands that will make their opponents squirm. The thing is that their opponents are their family. We’ve been confined to our house for months like pretty much everyone else in the country and the only people we play cards with are each other. This leads to the object lesson I’m reminded of at least once a day when we sit and deal around the breakfast table.
The skip card. I hardly see my kids get more excited these days than when they have one of these in their hot little hands. It seems to give them some kind of cheap thrill. They contemplate who they’ll use it against, if they’re going to save it or more often than not, it’s burning a hole in their pocket and they have to find a way to justify getting rid of it early which means skipping someone for no game-related reason at all. It cracks me up, but then I feel convicted all of a sudden because I think about how much I’m like that in real life sometimes.
There are times in life when we think the only way we can win at something is if someone else gets skipped. We want the chance to land that perfect job or ace the exam or hold that volunteer position and sometimes instead of hoping for the best for ourselves, we end up hoping the worst for someone else. Like our victorious position somehow requires other people lose. This is scarcity mentality at its ugliest. Unlike the card game I taught my kids to play where’s there’s a clear winner at the end, our lives don’t work that way. The experiences and opportunities we have access to don’t exist in the form of a pie where more or better for me automatically means less or worse for my neighbor.
Think about it. That last job you applied for, there was probably one opening, which meant that in order for you to gain what you wanted; someone else (probably a lot of someone elses) had to be “skipped.” But even so, that doesn’t mean whoever got the position won and everyone else lost. God can and does provide the best for all His children. This life is much more complex than a card game. God is looking out for the best interest of all of us and even when it feels like all is lost, He promises to work even our losses for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). We don’t have to hope someone else loses out in order for our turn to roll around quicker. Praise God it doesn’t work that way in His kingdom economy. In fact, you may feel like you’re the one who has been skipped and then the next thing you know He’s thrown a wild card your way that changes everything.
It's tempting to see what we have been dealt and strive to gain what we think others might have. The problem isn’t new or unique to us. So instead of looking for the skip cards in our lives, I’d like to leave us with Paul’s words reminding Jesus called us by example to live a life of looking toward Him, not looking out for ourselves:
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV).