Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Soggy Bread principle

There is a universal rule that God expresses through his Word. It is that when you put Him before a good thing, that thing will be blessed. Family, career, health, sex, money, happiness, and life aspirations. I have two great examples of this in my own life. One showing the positive effect, the other shows the flip side.

It was the winter of ’96 in Seattle. I had just got my first real, full-time job in the game industry a couple months earlier. My oldest son was about half a year old. Then Sierra decided to shut down our division. I was shocked and panicking. I had already spent months chasing this job, and knew there was nothing else out there for me. All the game companies at the time were looking for animators. A couple of days after we found out we were all going to loose our jobs we got a message from the corporate office saying there were positions available there. A ray of hope! Then I found out the only project they were staffing was a game called Gabriel Knight 3. A detective adventure game where the player discovers a big church conspiracy where they are hiding the ‘real’ tomb of Jesus, his wives and children. Then there were some kind of vampire angels and other blasphemous elements. This was a big decision for me. I expressed my concerns to the VP of development at Sierra, and asked him if there was any way I could get put onto another project. He said, in so many words, “Hey, I’m a Christian too, but I know how to separate fantasy from reality. Besides, if you have a problem with this game, what’s to say you won’t refuse to work on the next project that comes up? Take this position or leave it. I don’t care.”

Well, at that point it actually wasn’t a hard choice. I knew I should put God before my dream career. So I quit. I moved in with my parents and tried to teach my self to animate on the computer. After a couple of months my wife couldn't handle living with my parents anymore and flew up to her folks place in Alaska. Within a week I realized I had to give it up. There was nothing out there. Not even a nibble. My wife wanted to live near her extended family, so I agreed, and we moved to Claremore, Oklahoma. The town that is my antithesis. Surprisingly, I found a tech job in a little town just outside of that little town, just outside of Tulsa. I wrote tutorials for graphic software.

My wife could only handle the close proximity of her Oklahoma relatives for so long, and was starting to get really desperate and depressed. Driving through Tulsa one day, she rear-ended a long line of stopped traffic and totaled our vehicle. We were already up to our eyeballs in debt, had horrible credit, lived in a sauna of a state, were depressed, and now had no car. We got a ride home. I went and checked my email and there was a letter of interest from Outrage Entertainment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They flew me up for an interview and ended up hiring me for more than I asked for. Within a year my job had expanded to other areas with more responsibility, then a year after that my salary was double what I was making at Sierra. Then I got promoted to Art Lead on a dream project. This shows what can happen when you cast your bread upon the water.

And this is what happens when you don’t….

I gave up on finding a church that we would be comfortable in after several years of steeple chasing. We went sporadically, but just kind of went into automatic Christianity. That’s where you still believe the same things, and even live a life the way a Christian should. (At least on the outside.) But I stopped being passionate about God. As marriage issues arose with my wife, I tried to fix them the way any decent man would. I asked her to go to counseling. I bought her flowers all the time. I took her on vacations we couldn’t afford. I got her a big diamond ring. I did the vast majority of the cooking, and cleaning, and whenever I was home I would care for the children. I waited on her hand and foot. I even gave her complete control over the remote! Gee, doesn’t that make me sound like a great guy? Well, I wasn’t. I was trying desperately, in my own strength, to save my marriage. I didn’t have the time or energy to pursue God. The rest is history. She is gone, and I’m one tired daddy.

So as I consider these two examples in my life, I wonder about that part of me that wants my ex-wife to just disappear off the face of the earth. I know God loves her as much as He does me, and He doesn’t want her to be swept under the carpet. She hasn’t been around for several months now, and it has been a huge relief to me. The kids always have such a hard time after her 10 minute visits; and not having to deal with that fallout is keeping me sane. I just want to burry my head and pretend I’ll never have to deal with her again. Mostly I want closure. I want to feel like I can move on. Whatever that means. So I have some bread to cast on the water: that false hope that is telling me to write her off and move on. I’m not saying that my destiny is to be with her. What I’m saying is that I have to honestly tell God that I will do that if it is His will. I’m having trouble with the honest part. I was sincere when I gave my career away for Him. And I got back more than I ever would have dreamt. I don’t have that same feeling with regards to my ex wife. I cringe at the thought of working through all the issues that would inevitably be a part of a reunion with her. But then, there were a lot of difficult issues that came with loosing my job, moving three times, etc. But God saw me through it.

So here is my Soggy Bread theory…. God wants us to give with a cheerful heart. Abraham offered all, Cain gave half-heartedly. I have this feeling that dropping our bread in the water without joy and whole-heartedness does not prompt God to return it. I have this feeling we’ll just end up with soggy bread.

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