A lesson from Excitebike: You HAVE changed, which means you can change again. Thank God!

I must confess, I have little hope today that the US Government will soon figure out how to escape the clutches of the gun lobby. But I also confess my hope in the Lord who can change anything and everything, especially me.

This week, my hope in the Lord’s transforming power was confirmed as I played the original Excitebike for Nintendo Entertainment System on my son’s Nintendo Switch. Playing at the ripe old age of 39, I intuitively discovered something about the game that had eluded me during the many hours of playing it as a small child in the 80s.

The Nintendo Entertainment System came out in the US in 1985. My grandparents gave us one for Christmas in either 1986 or 1987, I’m not sure which. Receiving this extravagant gift was one of my earliest memories. I then spent many years only kind of playing the video games that went with it including Excitebike, but really being too young to figure many of them out. I would always crash the excitebike when it went over the little jumps. It was very frustrating, so I abandoned most of the game and took refuge in the feature which allowed you to make your own courses. I made mine easy and fun, and it was fun to make them. But I never beat the game, or level three.

Playing Excitebike thirty-five years later with much more success cast a pleasant, nostalgic spell on me for a moment which ended in four simple thoughts which give me hope:

  1. I didn’t always know how to do stuff.
  2. I’m not sure why or how I know how to do some of the things I now know how to do.
  3. There are many things today that I still do not know (This is frustrating and hopeful).
  4. I will one day know more than I do today.

At 39, I learned that the trick to Excitebike was to get the little pixelated motorbike’s angle to match the landing of the jump. You can use the directional pad to tilt the front wheel forward or backward. This was a revelation! My seven year old self marveled with me. We shared in a victory decades in the making. I beat level three on the first try. I think I made it to level five.

This silly parable I lived supplied me with my four simple truths which I will now apply to my current sense of powerlessness in the face of 23 people dead in Uvalde, Texas, 10 people targeted because they were black dead in Buffalo, 1 dead and five wounded in Laguna Woods, California because they were Taiwanese, and many, many dead in my own city’s chronically violent streets (in 2021 there were at least 560 homicide victims and more than 2,300 people were shot in Philadelphia according to this article from phillyvoice.com).

Source: gunviolencearchive.org

I don’t know what to do! Of course I would like politicians to do something but I have little hope they will. This has happened many, many times before. Shall I give up hope? I’m asking the question because the thought has, indeed, crossed my mind. But no, I am not giving up hope. Neither am I waiting for a solution from Washington, Harrisburg, Trenton or anywhere else where laws are made. My hope really must be in the Lord. My sense of what that means right now is pretty vague. I’m sorry if my inability to explain it makes this little blog post meaningless for you. All I can say is that I am confident that my hope does not disappoint. I don’t know, but I will.

How will we figure out guns in the United States? I don’t know. Maybe we won’t. But I know that my love makes a difference. I know that my prayers are not meaningless. I will still go to the ballot box and speak the truth God gives me. I will still lend my voice to the advocacy efforts of my allies. I will still confront the anxiety that creeps into my mind and heart — that potentially debilitating frustration and fear that so many people share in this moment.

I don’t know. That might have to be ok for a while. There are many things I don’t know. That will probably have to be ok for the rest of my earthly life.

But let me not forget that I am growing! Let me not forget that I was once completely baffled about many things great and small about which I now am no longer baffled, Excitebike being one. Forgive me if the tininess of my video game parable casts a shade of triviality on the immensity of all those lives lost. I am getting at my own need to grapple with the impossibility of now, by lifting my eyes to to a horizon that I cannot yet see. When I was seven, I had no idea how to have an idea about the little bike. When I was 39 I just knew how to do it. I have no idea how this happened.

The Lord’s parables are better than mine. This one from Mark 4 comes to mind: “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

The seeds grow though we don’t know how. I grew and I didn’t know how. I will grow and I won’t realize it. This brings me comfort. I hope you can share some of it. Because we need the Lord’s comfort today.

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