When I was in my early teens I used to play a computer game called Calypso Island. It was a text-based adventure game. No graphics, no elaborate screen designs, just words. Hard to imagine that now, isn’t it? But I was completely hooked. I spent hours and hours playing this game. In my defence it was a long time ago.
The first screen started:
And you have limited interaction with the game. After that first screen I would type:
And eventually you type in “Go south” and another room is described. Slowly you make your way through various rooms collecting items, dropping items, solving puzzles – all in the name of getting to the treasure trove on Calypso Island.
After three hours of game play having wandered through countless rooms, finding the room with the secret exit which led to the tunnel that travelled under the water – not an easy journey, the number of times I drowned trying to swim across, resorted to swimming after my boat sunk halfway or after I got hit by a cannonball from a passing pirate ship (there were a lot of ways to die!) – I would eventually arrive on Calypso Island.
And then after navigating the beach and the forest, I would find myself in front of the treasure chest. And so after three hours of game play and with growing expectation I would type:
And then I’d enter into the following dialogue:
And of course this is the early 80s and computer games don’t allow you to save the game halfway through, so you return to the first room and start all over again.
And why couldn’t I solve it? Because there was something I hadn’t found, something I didn’t pick up on the journey, something that was key to the whole process that I had neglected to bring with me on the journey. And so back to room one again and again. In fact, I kept returning to that first room for the next three months.
“We can return to room one and collect what we need”
Our own room one
What is it that we didn’t pick up? What habits have we neglected to build into our lives and as a result we can’t negotiate the snake. What sustaining habits should we have spent time establishing personally?
Do I pray daily, do I make time for God, do I have enough silence? Maybe even more basic, do I sleep enough, do I eat properly, do I give the necessary time to develop healthy relations? Do I spend time investing in good relationships with friends and family?
And what habits should we have built into the life of our family? Bedtime prayers? Bible stories? Prayer before meals? Am I putting in the hours or am I just too busy for the things that will ultimately count, the things that will hold me in good stead when I face the snake? Are there things we shouldn’t be leaving room one without?
It was a wet Welsh November night in 1982 when I worked it out. Rain hammering on my bedroom window, comfortably lying in my bed, it was approaching midnight – then it came to me. I got up, loaded the game and entered that first room.
It was obvious once I realised it. I suspect obvious to many of you from the start. But it took me three months! The mouse! That jolly mouse who scurried past in that very first room. I went to the computer and loaded the game and started playing.
Three hours later I typed the words:
It was in the first room. In room one. The game couldn’t be completed without gathering the correct things in that first room.
So for your journey through the next few decades, what do you need to pick up now? What should we be asking for so that we are properly equipped for this wonderful adventure? And maybe a more important question, what have you not picked up and need to go back to room one for.
It’s never too late to go back and build those things in. Really, it’s never too late. That’s the glory of humanity. We can always change. We are not trapped by our circumstances or environment, not even trapped by our personalities – that’s just a rather weak excuse.
We can change. We can return to room one and collect what we need. And then we can continue the adventure. Relationships can be restored, we can pick up the ability to forgive, we can learn that our presence is the most important thing we bring.
We really can pick up the mouse!