the original Word
The funny thing is that none of us remember the original prompt, now—it could have been outer space or video game or teeter totter, but we remember only purse, only the bizarre wrong thing it became when Adam gave up trying to guess. I’m not sure what it is about our human nature that we store up wrongs.
But here we are, sitting in an oval of light, laughing over how easily the right answer can become the wrong one, game books and markers and little squares of pinked fabric scattered across the table. I take the one bone-white die in my fingers and toss it onto the table, right over a sparkly band of glitter Zoe glued to the table five years ago when she worked on a school project. History has made our kitchen table a work of art.
I pass the die to Kevin and scan the playing card in front of me, looking for the third phrase. Bomb. It will be my secret, and I jot it in the oval on the slick book in front of me, fingering the plastic spiral binding with my other hand. I’m glad Kevin will have to draw that one and not me. It’s funny that the singular thing you roll to enter the game, to find your direction in it, should be called a die. Lately, that’s the singular thing God keeps whispering to me about purpose and Life and real abundance, too: die. Die to you, live to me.
Beside me, Adam scrawls something quickly with his thick, black pen, flicking furtive glances at me as he does. In this game, you are at the mercy of the person ahead of you.
Adam flips the page on his game book and thwacks it down in front of me with a smile. Bear hug. His letters hunch together, as though he’s thinking about the way a hug feels, about how little he really likes them. The hump in the h reminds me of the lift of his shoulders when he’s tolerating my squeezes. The way he smiles at me, I’m pretty sure he’s puzzled over what a bear should have to do with this whole thing–am I hugging a bear?–and how I should manage to draw such a thing so that his dad might correctly interpret. That’s how the game works: one person draws, the next guesses, the next draws the guess, and so on for six rounds. As I said, you’re at the mercy of the person ahead of you, which means that Adam’s guesses and drawings always depend on Riley’s translations, because she sits to his right at the table.
That’s how whatever it was became purse, how skeleton became hands. Whatever Riley guessed in the purse round, Adam didn’t understand, so he just drew a purse. He’d probably been thinking about the way he gets my purse for me when I talk too long and he’s ready to go home, because the rendering looked authentic. I could almost see his hands gripping the rounded handles. And he’d agreed to one game—one—reiterated with his blue eyes holding my own, and then he could go.
He’d passed the book to me, and I’d naturally guessed purse, but that was of course the farthest imaginable thing from the original word. Then Kevin had drawn some broad-shouldered being holding the bag, which ultimately made Zoe guess that the whole book had been about a murse, a man-bag, a satchel. She had hooted for several minutes over the implications of Kevin’s drawing.
It was funny and exactly in the spirit of the game, but in the end, beneath my laughter, I felt stung that Adam hadn’t been able to find the words to ask Riley “What is that?” when he’d read her incomprehensible guess, that when faced with the impossibility of understanding, he’d just made something up. But isn’t that often what we all do, when the example we have in front of us doesn’t seem relevant? And somehow, we’re losing both the ability to ask questions of those before us and the ability to listen well to their answers.
My dad has wisely said that one thing that frustrates him most about our society today is that we seem to have lost the significance of our history. Having forgotten the foundations of things, we live at the mercy of the generation ahead of us to correctly pass on the truth. Sometimes we find their rendering of values easily applicable, and sometimes, finding the example before us incomprehensible, we make something up that’s almost entirely opposite. And our human nature lends us great ability to store up wrongs while completely dismembering the original Word we eventually fail to recall. I believe that’s why God constantly urges that we remember to intentionally re-member the truth as only once perfectly and completely rendered in the person of Christ (Colossians 1:15-20).
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1), and when this nation began, worshipping God was so much the heart of it.
In His mercy, God made us–misguided, imperfect, hurting, reckless us—vessels of truth, imitators of the original Word. He means that we should make visible here and now the always-present Presence of Christ, that we should reveal the great mystery of the upside-down kingdom to the generations that follow us, and that responsibility is most certainly not a game. But let’s face it, sometimes my renderings of Jesus mislead, especially when I redraw Him in the image of me instead of allowing the Spirit to erase me to reassemble the image of Him. So die, He says. Your secret word is Jesus.
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up…for us (Ephesians 5:1-2).