The sadly underwhelming Spore was a 2008 PC game that allowed the player to experience and guide life from the cellular level right up to interstellar civilisation. You’d start off controlling an amoeba-like creature, absorbing nutrients and running away from larger micro-organisms; then progress to controlling a creature as it hunts for food and dodges predators; then a tribe, then a nation as it warred with its rivals; and finally you’d be planning space missions as your planet-state collected precious cargo or exotic life forms from other star systems.
At every single level of play there was something to worry about. Neutralising a source of worry at one stage merely opened up a new horizon of worry: achieving a large enough size on the microbial levels merely meant you’d now have to worry about finding more food (and running from larger predators) to stay alive; achieving safety from predators in a tribe merely meant worrying about other tribes, then other cities, and finally other planets. Achieving what you wanted at each stage did nothing to take away the worry and the challenge.
That’s what (supposedly) made the game work, made it playable as a game. And rather depressingly this is the game we are in everyday.
I worry constantly. I’m always trying my level best to find that thing that will neutralise my worry, but forgetting that that’s not how life works. As a kid I worried about making bad grades or missing Power Rangers on TV; as a teen I worried about not being cool, or being too pimply, or my crush not liking me back; as a college student I worried about my future job, or my crush not liking me back; as a working man I worried about not providing for my parents, or my crush not liking me ba-
Anyway the worry is always there. If I have my own family in the future I’ll worry about my kids. When I’m middle aged I’ll probably start worrying about my prostate or something. As an old man I’ll worry about grandchildren, my failing health, or somesuch.
We’ll never not worry about something, because that’s how reality is wired. It was wired that way since we ate the fruit and realised we are naked. And now we have to worry about toiling for our food, we worry about returning to the dust.
Which is what makes seek first the Kingdom of God such a scandalous command. Jesus’ way is to simply not play the game as set out by our fallen world: the world motivates us through worry, but Jesus tells us not to worry, not to fear; the world reminds us to toil for our food because if you don’t do it no one else will, but Jesus says he will provide; the world asks us to build it up without guarantee of success, in the face of entropy and decay, but Jesus says build up a coming Kingdom which will last. The world compels us to run around after food and clothing because the worry is that there won’t be any if we don’t earn it, and damn anyone who gets in our way. We worry about these things, we idolise them; the world, as J Bethke once put it, slaps a collar on us and drags us this way and that, and we let it because we’re worried we’re missing out. Because we look at ourselves and we know we’re naked.
But Jesus covers our nakedness with the animal skin, where fig leaves won’t do; he covers our sin with his blood, he freely gives bread in the wilderness, where we worry there’s no food. He heals sickness, where we worry there’s no hope.
We can trust him when he tells us not to worry, because of what he’s done for us on the cross – he told us he’d die and rise up in three days, and he did it. How much more trustworthy can you get than that?
Christians will still return to the dust. Christians still have to toil for their food. Some Christians have jobs, others don’t; some live in peace, some die violently. But where the world motivates and threatens its people through worry and fear, Christians can serve a better King. We live with the worry, waiting for a better Kingdom, instead of the neutralisation of one worry, only to encounter the next.
And the only reason we can have this hope, the only reason we can walk through the worry, is because we know Jesus had to walk through this fallen world too; but he knew something better, something unchangeable, was coming, and he waited for that, and trusted his Father to provide for him, even when he was worried unto the point of death in Gethsemane. He sought first the Kingdom even if it meant he would die.
But he came back to life. So where does that leave the world and its threats, its worries?
The worry and the fear will always haunt all people in the world, Christian or not. But there is an insane, scandalous way to say no to it, one that barely seems to make sense. It makes just about as much sense as a dead carpenter coming back to life after three days.
Maybe makes slightly more sense than Spore anyway.