Lately I’ve been playing a whole lot of Civilization V, and I like to think it’s not in vain. I’m going to assume the majority of my readers are unfamiliar with the game, so I’ll give you a quick rundown:
Basically, you start out as this tiny little city, and over the course of however many hundred turns you are willing to devote to this game, you become an unstoppable world power. At least, you attempt to become an unstoppable world power because the only other option is being purged from the face of the earth and no one wants that. Mostly, you choose your battles wisely and try not to think about how this game is a tragic reminder of the actual state of our world.
For the sake of this story, you need to know that for each large civilization, there are two city-states. These are little cities that take up small pockets of the world and sometimes grant gifts to the civilizations they deem friends or allies (which is a great perk).
Now, in this particular game, my nearest neighbor was the city-state known as Rio de Janeiro. Rio and I were friends for most of the game, then for whatever reason, they became more impressed with the growing nation of Siam than my humble little China. Normally, their declaring allegiance to another civilization wouldn’t be a problem (besides perhaps the little slap in the face that says I’m not good enough for them, but I digress), but on this particular day, Rio’s change of allegiance was a monumental mistake. You see, Siam was at war with Carthage, and Carthage just happened to be Rio’s neighbor to the north.
In my brother’s oh-so-insightful words: “Say goodbye to Rio.”
However, this is me and my world of silly fixations, and I didn’t want to say goodbye to Rio. So I turned to said brother, who is far more experienced in the game than I, and asked how I could save them.
“Well, maybe if you give them some money, it will make them like you more than Siam. If they’re allies with you, Dido will make peace with them.”
So I followed his counsel and dropped 250 gold pieces at their doorstep. They proclaimed their love for me and the Carthaginian army retreated back into their borders. All is well in the world, right? Wrong.
It took all of two turns for Rio to turn back to Siam and declare war on the Queen of Carthage once again.
That’s when I had this striking thought which I voiced aloud to whoever cared to listen:
“Is this how Jesus feels?”
I mean, talk about bad decisions. You start a war you cannot possibly win, and when I offer you a way out, you aren’t even going to take it? Stupid, stupid city-state.
The war elephants march in. The city falls and is marked with the symbol of chains. The borders bleed into the royal purple of Carthage. And I am far more distressed than I should be in this situation.
Because, Rio, my silly little Rio, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?
And as much as I find God in this, I’m struck by something even more disconcerting.
I find myself in Rio de Janeiro.
How many times have I turned away, distracted by other, shiny things? How many times have I misplaced my allegiance? How many times have I found the world pressing in around me, leaving me with no one but myself to blame? How many times have I worn chains and bled the colors of the enemy?
And how many times has God watched the mess I’ve made of my life while whispering, “Rebekah, my silly little Rebekah, don’t you know how I wanted to protect you?”
But this is not the end of the story. It never is.
Because Carthage is not the only one with an army. I have my resources, too. I come sweeping in like a riptide, like a hurricane, purging the city of every trace of Dido’s army. And when asked what I want to do with the city, I don’t hesitate.
It’s the same thing Jesus does for me every time He comes crashing into the midst of my messes. The same thing He does when the chains bind me tight and my borders bleed the wrong colors.
I don’t know why I stand there nervous every time, like I’m afraid the pattern will change just because I’ve done it for the thousandth time. Although I would be done with me by now, He never is.
He breaks the chains. He changes the colors.
My fingers hover over the button. I smile. I click.