Chess, Checkers and X’s and O’s

I write blogs, I preach sermons, I mentor and I coach, all with the desire to make a difference. My advice is thought out, I make sure my sermons are well researched and my blogs, I hope, can be applied to the reader’s ongoing journey. Still, there is a limit that must be overcome. All the schooling I can manage coupled with all my life experiences will fall short. Each day I mature as a Christ follower, each year I grow in my faith, but it’s not enough. The way I live my life is like playing X’s and O’s maybe even checkers while the God I claim to know and understand plays chess.

All metaphors break down eventually.

In the real world anyone can learn to play X’s and O’s and then graduate to checkers and even learn to play chess, in my metaphor we all can play X’s and O’s, some learn to play checkers but only God can always succeed at chess. It wouldn’t be so bad if everyone, Christ follower or not, could grasp this concept but regardless of your belief system we all think at one time or another we can continually succeed at chess.

We can play X’s and O’s.

The game is simple and, if played properly, ends in a tie game, no winner, no loser. Every action taken by your opponent is met with a counter move. There is no need to think a few moves ahead; every move after the first move is a reaction to the move before.

When we grow up we should want to be a few steps ahead as we attempt to achieve our dreams, however there will always be those who would rather live life waiting to react to the next thing that happens to them.

We can graduate to checkers.

Checkers is a little more complicated than X’s and O’s. There is strategy involved if you want to come out on top. Planning your next move is not just a reaction to your opponent’s move but also includes considering the best move to set up subsequent moves and win the game. Each piece can only move forward diagonally and in most cases only one square. When you are “kinged” there is the bonus of being able to move in any direction diagonally but still (in most cases) it is just one square.

As we mature, naturally or by necessity, planning ahead becomes the best way in our minds to realize our dreams and enjoy the fruit of our ambitions. Even then we see life in terms of simple moves based on limited possibilities just like in checkers.

We all try to play chess.

Chess is difficult to play because it requires the ability to anticipate the move of your opponent on a whole new level. Different pieces move in different ways leading to multiple possibilities for your opponent and you. You are playing offence and defence at the same time. You do your best to anticipate the impact of your move on their strategy and their move on your strategy and how things will play out as the game progresses. You can’t bring a, one direction one square, checkers mentality to a chess game or you will not win.

Chess, just like life, is always at the mercy of our limitations. We can learn more about the game over time and maybe create a chess strategy. Even so, not being able to know for sure how each move impacts subsequent moves means we are just playing an advanced game of checkers.

God doesn’t have to follow the rules in chess.

With at most an advanced checker playing ability, Christ follower and God denier alike attempt to make plans, implement strategies and make moves as if we know what will happen next. At our best, humans can correctly anticipate the next move some of the time based on the limits of our accumulated experiences. This makes us capable checker players but the decisions that lead to actions in life are more akin to making moves in a chess match.

God already knows all the moves that will happen before the game even starts while we are confined by the rules of human existence. We cannot know for certain what will happen in the future and therefore we cannot know what moves to make now. Playing X’s and O’s we have a good chance at not losing, checkers we have a better chance of winning, chess there is only one way to guarantee a win.

God will always win at chess and He will let you be on His team.

Even with the limitations of our advanced checker playing abilities God will let us make all the moves in the chess game we call life if we really want to. Christ follower or not you can try to guess what will happen and act accordingly. In some cases you will make the right move, other cases you will recover from the wrong move and sometimes you may even win a few rounds.

To make the winning moves in life, we don’t need to know what move to make or what moves will be made, we just need to trust the one who does.

The first move: become a Christ follower.

The second move: let God dictate all remaining moves.

The third move: let God dictate all the moves again (we will try to take over).

The forth move: repeat the third move as necessary.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)


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