At the risk of uttering what I think could be some kind of Story Warren sacrilege, I must confess right off the bat that my kids enjoy playing video games. Is that okay to say here? I’m just going to own it. My two boys, who are 11 and 8, get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction out of building houses, mining for ore, and fighting creepers in Minecraft (personally I don’t get it). Prior to Minecraft, it was Madden 2013, then NBA2K13, and at some point in the past, Lego Star Wars. (My conscience wants me to insert here that they do, in fact, read a lot too.)
Before those games, though, came what I consider to be the pinnacle of my own personal video game success – Mario Kart Wii.
We used to play this cartoonish driving game together as a family. I found it to be a great opportunity to exert my fatherly dominance over my children. (Is it bad to BOO-YAH in your four-year old’s face? Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question.) I rarely lost the tournaments we played, and had no problem making my young children cry on occasion, but time moved on, and they have progressed to technologically superior games.
Although I haven’t dusted off my driving skills in awhile, I was thinking about Mario Kart recently. One particular mode of the game intrigued me. You could set up a Ghost Race. In this mode, you would race against a “ghost” – a ghost, being a player who had already gone before you. It could be someone else who had a top time on this particular course layout. It could be a “you” of the past. When you play in Ghost Race mode, you see in front of you a faint image of this ghost, racing ahead, taking the turns, pushing hard toward the finish line. If you drive well, with a minimum of errors, taking the same path the ghost takes, or even a better one, you can catch up. If you’re not doing so hot, you’ll fall behind, maybe even losing sight of the speedy apparition out in front. It’s possible to even surpass the ghost and beat him to the finish line. That’s what you’re going for in Ghost Race mode.
I was running in my neighborhood one day recently, reflecting on some stuff in my life. The image of this game flooded my mind. And I was struck with the thought that I had been living this way recently, chasing a particular ghost in my past. That without even realizing it, I had pointed my life in a direction that caused me to judge everything based on how well – or how poorly – I was pursuing my ghost. I had allowed myself to fall into a trap. To set expectations for myself that weren’t realistic, or even possible, based on something that had been real in my past, but was no longer there. I had been allowing a ghost to have immense power in my life. I’d been baited into chasing after something I could never grasp, running a race I could never win.
I wonder what ghosts we are racing against without even knowing it? I also wonder what subtle forces (from within, or without) influence our kids to spend a lifetime chasing ghosts that don’t matter?
The ghosts we chase are as varied as we are, unique to our situations and life experiences. Some of us chase the ghost of an ultra-successful sibling, or the expectation of a demanding father, whose voice you can still hear. Your ghost could be the pursuit of safety and security, financially, relationally, or otherwise. You could be chasing a memory – that of a long-lost relationship, or a long-gone family member, and the expectations you still believe they have of you. Whatever it is, chances are, you’re chasing it without you even realizing it.
Ghosts, to be sure, are different than ideals, aspirations, and dreams. In fact, they war against them. The ghosts we tend to chase lead us down dark paths where we are prone to give in to envy, fear, and despair. It’s not just that it’s the wrong race for us…it puts us on the wrong track altogether.
The life Christ calls us into is the antithesis of the ghost-chasing, cul-de-sac circling, exhausting and self-defeating pursuit of shadows we cannot really hold onto anyway. He beckons us to move ever-forward down the road of His joy and abundance, with Him, opening ourselves up to possibilities we’d never dreamed of. Potential He sees in us that we’d never find circling the same track again and again. I want my kids to be as free from ghost-chasing as possible, even though I know there will always be internal and external pressures that tempt them.
How, then, do I help my kids shake the ghosts they may be prone to chase with their one, precious life, and pursue the path of Christ instead? Some thoughts here, knowing that each of these bullet points deserves its own post:
—–Expose them to new things (both experiences and people) which expand their view of God’s Kingdom and what they thought was possible in their own lives.
—–Encourage their curiosity – steer them away from activities that dull this (like TV, and, ahem, video games), and provide ample space, atmosphere, and resources for things that sharpen it (reading, for one).
—–Help them discover their own gifts and lean into them, which will allow them to say no to the ghosts.
—–Tell them, over and over again and in different ways, about the God who is bigger than our ghosts, our well-worn race tracks, and our lives.
Stop racing my own ghosts!
I’m grateful God gives us His presence and power so we don’t have to attempt these things alone. And that there is freedom – for everyone, our children included – to leave our ghosts behind.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” ~2 Cor 3:17
So tell me…what ghosts are you chasing? What ideas do you have for helping our children live free, joyful lives in pursuit of Christ alone?