For Forrest Gump, life was like a box of chocolates. But it could also be compared to a game of Candy Land. How we wish we could play by a unique set of rules created as we go along to protect us from harm and keep us comfortable. My daughter Katherine showed a high aptitude of this when she was five.
I distinctively remember the game we played almost 15 years ago on my bedroom floor.
“I go first, and I get the ice-cream card,” she told me. “Then you go, and you get the gingerbread card, okay?” She tucked the gingerbread card in back of the ice-cream card in the big pile on the floor.
“That’s not how the game works,” I explained. “You have to shuffle the cards so that you don’t know what you’re getting … That’s part of the fun.”
“But what if I get all the way to Snow Flake Lake and then I pick the gingerbread man and have to go back all those spaces?”
She grimaced and thought further.
“Well if I pick the gingerbread, will you go back with me?” she asked me. “So that I’m not alone?”
I paused, considering all the sound advice in my parenting books but chose codependency instead.
“Sure,” I said.
My husband shook his head.
“We play by the rules or we don’t play at all …”
“All right, then we will only play with these cards,” Katherine bargained, as she hid all the pink cards (the gingerbread, candy cane, gumdrop, peanut, lollipop, and of course the ice-cream card … the guys with all the power).
“Bring those cards back here,” I said.
“They are bad cards,” she explained. “All of them are bad except for the ice-cream.”
At five she wasn’t ready to hear a sermon about the uncertainty of life. She would have refuted the notion that many people arrive at Snow Flake Lake only to pick the gingerbread card and backtrack a dozen or more spaces. I wasn’t sold on it either back then. Even after picking some lousy cards in my early thirties, I was still crafting my own set of rules, trying to manipulate my movement to avoid any nasty surprises. I was disturbed by the randomness inherent to humans.
You can be winning the game by twenty squares and then lose a turn because you landed on a licorice space; you may get an unexpected break by landing on the rainbow trail or gumdrop pass, but then your competitor picks the peanut card and gets to hang out in peanut acre while you’re stuck in lollipop woods.
“Certainty is fleeting. That is why we must have faith,” Sister Julienne told the other sisters in the BBC drama series Call the Midwife.
Or, as Carmelite mystic Teresa of Avila says in her Bookmark prayer:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.
Having faith means that we don’t have to fret if we pick a gingerbread card. Because God is like a pushover mom: He will always go back with us. Faith assures us that we will soon move on from all sticky spaces. And if we keep our hearts open, we may even learn something in lollipop woods. The card that we most feared could turn out to be our greatest teacher.
Once we truly grasp that, we are free.
We can relax and play the game.
Photo credit: Amboo Who? on Flickr.
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