None of us are frozen in time. We are always growing, changing, learning from our experiences. Some habits, views, philosophies, may crystallize, but overall, life is change.
So why should a character, from a movie, book, or game, be so frozen?
Adrian Reinhardt, as I’ll talk about elsewhere, is a man in near-constant flux. My oldest literary creation has gotten older, younger, been married, divorced, widowed, a murderer, rape survivor, and possibly other things. He’s human.
Lasairian isn’t, but he can change as well. I think he should, too. He seems to have stuck.
When I made him years ago, he was just a character for a game. He was a ringer, an intended spy, who morphed into a Christian evangelist who defied expectations, including mine. He traveled around encouraging others to change, to grow. Since that time, though, as he’s taken up residence inside my head, his form, abilities and outlook have remained static. He still glows; he still dresses like a monk; he still has his impressive track record from the game — preaching, starting an entirely new branch of Christianity, developing a powerful spell, and healing others with a touch.
He’s intimidating, and that works against his current position as the avatar of my aspirations. He’s who I picture when I think about what I can do in the world. An avatar who makes you feel bad about yourself does not help when you’re looking for inspiration.
Playing Lasairian encouraged me to look deeper at my own faith, to examine it and how my life is. Playing him helped inspire me to write Getting Hammered. But now I think it’s time for him to go.
That’s the change.
This was going to be a post/chapter about how I was going to alter Lasairian, make him somewhat more “realistic”, so that I could play him again in a different story, and also so my little shoulder angel wouldn’t be quite so intimidating. Those first paragraphs are how far I got before I realized that he actually needs to go. He needs to retire. I need to stop talking to him. Because when I talk to him, I know I’m talking to myself, and therefore not to God.
Most of the time I know, that is. There was one incident in which I felt God used Lasairian to show His mercy and love. Apart from that one time, though, I know it’s just me, putting words in his mouth.
Lasairian always speaks with wisdom, but it’s not true wisdom or understanding. He says what I already know; he’s the voice of “You know better than that.” I’m not really asking for guidance. I’m relying on myself and what I know. I fear that he’s become a distraction from God, and from turning to Him when I need real answers. The idea that my dear creation has actually become a hindrance to my walk with God is unbearable. So I think he has to go.
This realization has gotten me thinking about other distractions I have.
Let’s see here…
I’m a gamer. (What a surprise.) I participate in games as a player, and as the GM (game master). As a player, if I’m really into the plot and my character, I spend a lot of time away from the game thinking about developing my character. I devote time to refining him or her (usually him), and writing about them. I talk with the GM about the character so I bring him or her to life as fully as possible. (Example: Lasairian)
As a GM, I spend almost no time at all planning. From pretty much moment to moment in a game I’m running, I have no idea what’s going to happen. I don’t plan; I prefer to let things develop organically. I have the setting, some other characters, and the general direction of where I want things to do down, but beyond that, I let things develop how they may.
But at the same time, I spend a lot of time thinking about the game. I imagine possible scenarios based on past events (and I am invariably wrong); I think about the characters and what they’re doing off-screen.
Now, I’m not about to argue that hobbies (such as gaming, collecting various things, playing sports, etc), are wrong, and that no one should have fun and relaxation. That’s preposterous. I believe that God wants us to enjoy life, and hobbies are a great way to do just that. But when hobbies take up a massive amount of time and/or energy, overwhelming other areas of life, then they’re a distraction. And I’ve got plenty of other distractions in my life to spend time talking to an imaginary character instead of God.
A big one is money. I spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about it. While Chris and I work hard, and we are blessed to have generous parents, there almost never seems to be quite enough money to cover bills, expenses, savings, and giving. I worry about putting the girls through school, getting our debts paid off, keeping money set aside for emergencies. So I think about how much I earn at work, extra ways to make money, and daydream about winning lots of money.
What does the Bible say about money, and worrying about it? Well…
Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
I don’t feel as though I love money, but I think my actions and the direction of my thoughts certain indicate it’s possible. I worry about it, and think about my finances often, when I should think of others first, of giving and helping.
And God knows there are many others worse off than me. I have nothing to complain about. There’s an overwhelming number of other people around the world and down my street who are suffering and need help. Worrying about money blinds us to the plight of others.
A related distraction to money is the delusion that the only way to really help others is to do something big, make a grand gesture, start a foundation or move the Earth. That’s not the case. Any help is better than none. Give a little, make soup, give a coat — that’s better and more than doing and giving nothing. The trick there, though, is to not then fall into the trap of “I gave that homeless guy a sandwich, my conscience is absolved, and I am free to be a self-absorbed ass the rest of the day.” We are called to do as much as we can, not as we want.
(I’m about to veer off into a discussion of hypocrisy, Dear Reader, so I’ll set this train of thought aside for now and take it up later. I’m getting distracted in my section about distraction!)
What else serves as a distraction from God?
I mentioned I worry about how much I make at work. Work itself — our jobs — can be a major distraction. From the day-to-day details to angling for prestige to stress, jobs are very distracting.
So what can we do? Most of us can’t not work; that’s just not how our societies are set up. You wanna eat, you gotta work. So what can we do?
That’s a good question. The need to work is inescapable. Also, the sheer variety of jobs makes it difficult to prioritize them. Many jobs are important, even vital, and the time-consuming, stressful natures of them can’t just be brushed aside. But what we can manage is how much space our jobs, regardless of what they are, take up in our lives, and how much weight we give them. It’s been said that we only get one life, only one trip on this globe, and we should make the most of it. In the long run, we need to consider what has the greatest impact, what brings the greatest joy?
Am I advocating quitting your job? Of course not. There’s lots to be done on a daily basis, and (sadly) money does make the world go ’round. (And as of this paragraph, there’s a recession going on, and way too many people are out of work and can’t find jobs.) So no, don’t quit your job. Just don’t let it consume your life and upend your priorities.
At the same time, do whatever it is you do for the glory of God, as Paul writes:
Colossians 3:17, 23-24
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving
That includes what we do in our free time, in our routines, the last distraction I’m going to take up here. (If I went and tried to list them all, this would turn into Laura’s Big Book of Distractions as opposed to Getting Hammered.)
Now obviously, routines aren’t bad and and of themselves. But they can be, and are sometimes, distractions because it’s easy to get absorbed into them and stuck. We are creatures of habit. Once a way of doing things is done long enough, it’s hard to break out. It becomes a comfort zone, a blanket covering our minds, shutting out other ideas, other ways of thinking and doing.
Let’s all make God a part of our routines, of our lives, the first, biggest and best part. If your routine, like mine now, doesn’t include quiet time for reflection, prayer, reading the Bible, just spending time with Christ, then let’s change. Let’s reflect on what distractions we have, and work on clearing them away.
Even if it means saying goodbye to an old, if imaginary, friend.
Life is change, but God is always.
Let’s pay attention.