January 10, 2010
IHOP Global Prayer Room
Kansas City, MO
I’ve been playing a lot of Minesweeper lately. Well, the Mac version of it (Mineswept) actually. I notice that I am driven to keep playing until I’ve won at least one game. If I’m not too tired or pressed by immediate deadlines, then I’ll keep going until I’ve had two or more wins in a row.
The trick to Minesweeper is vigilance and recognition. After a while, as my hand and eyes become more familiar with certain patterns of numbers (for example, a mine surrounded by 1’s), I can click with more confidence and less thought. I know what I am doing because I’ve done it so many times before, I’m not worried about accidently clicking on a mine and thus ending the game.
Other times, when the number (which tells me exactly how many mines are in the immediate vicinity of the eight spaces around it) matches the number of spaces I haven’t clicked yet, I can flag them each as a mine because I am simply adding two and two. Situations like this keep the game moving and I gain confidence and speed as I click away spaces. The most commonly occurring instances of this are the 1’s that have only one space dangling in the corner that is left for me to flag. Also, 4’s and 5’s are easier to discern because so many spaces are occupied with mines.
However, the hardest situations for me are with the 2’s and sometimes the 3’s. The chances of there being a mine are slimmer, but because there is a 8 to 2 or 3 ratio I am working with, I have less confidence and thus more vigilance as I carefully count the spaces and number around the spaces. I have to slow down, stay watchful of not only the immediately vicinity of 8 spaces, but also of the spaces surrounding each of the 8 spaces.
Sometimes, and this is where the game slows down considerably and sometimes even pauses as the seconds tick way, I am faced with a situation where there are more untapped spaces than the number of mines and NO CLUES to tell me which ones may contain mines. I feel a sense of nervousness, I unconsciously hold my breath or take more shallow breaths, and I stop in fear of acting rashly. Because that happens. When I am moving more confidently around 1’s and 4 or 5’s, I pick up speed and sometimes accidently uncover a mine that if I had slowed down just a little bit more to give myself time to count, I wouldn’t have uncovered.
Keeping a steady pace and not speeding up too much is important for me.
The difficulty is how to go forward when I have no clues. There is an option in the Mac version, Mineswept, that allows me to show where the mines are (Command + D – D for Deliverance?) and sometimes I use it to confirm my instincts or to guide my random, completely uneducated guesses in the dark. I am trying to develop my mining instincts and recognize the mine patterns (which seem to be completely erratic and totally unlike any logical patterns at the moment!) so I can intuit where the mines will probably be given any set of numbers in the area.
However, I can’t decide whether to use the Cmd + D cheat option to develop these instincts or to keep making guesses and learning by trial and error. The former option is definitely less stressful and allows me to continue and even finish the game, though the successful completion of the game becomes less satisfying. I didn’t earn it on my own.
The other thing about Mineswept is that I can play with the option of continuing the game even after clicking on mines – there’s an “undo” option that I can “erase” my losing move with. I used that in the beginning as I was becoming more familiar with the patterns but quickly became bored with the crutch – it felt just like bowling with the side rafters (what were those called again?) where no one can throw a gutterball…and I am known as “Gutterball Queen” in some parts of the Valley.
It occurred to me that sometimes life is like mineswept. As we grow older, more mature, and hopefully increasingly wiser, we gain familiarity with patterns in life. For example, if I am having many headaches in any given day, I know to ask myself if I’ve been hydrating myself, if I’ve had too much caffeine (or if I’m in withdrawal because I’ve been having too much recently and now too little for the day) to check for physical causes. If not those, then I ask myself if I’ve been stressed out about something mentally or emotionally, and I force myself to stop whatever I’m doing so I can check in with my Self and the Lord. Other times, when physical, mental, and emotional reasons have checked out fine, I know to ask myself and the Lord what is happening spiritually. The headaches may be a cause of spiritual warfare or from demonic interference that is meant to distract and discourage me. The headache is like the number in the middle of 8 spaces, and each space is like a reason for the cause – the mines are uncovered by the process of elimination. As I eliminate causes one by one, I am uncovering spaces which will ideally leave the mine’s location clearly as the one that is left uncovered.
I can go through life like that, just coasting and picking up speed, moving forward and unearthing mines. In Mineswept or Minesweeper I can flag the mines, and having secured myself against clicking on those mines and ending the game, and move on, uncovering spaces and getting closer to finishing the game successfully. The aim is to locate all the mines and uncover all the spaces in the given game in the least amount possible. The aim of life sometimes seems to be to get through the day with the least amount of drama, pain, and disappointment so we can move forward to the next day and the next day. Uncovering spaces feels like getting my stuff done and needs met whether it’s work, studying, papers, going out with friends, ministering to someone, or working on a professional/personal project like reading a book or writing an article. The mines are sort of like blocks to uncovering spaces, and the numbers are like signposts for the number of mines in the area I need to watch out for and avoid exploding.
Fortunately, unearthing a mine doesn’t mean game over in the sense that the day is done, but sometimes it feels that way emotionally.
Take Ruth Vuong’s unexpected passing for example. There was no number or warning at all – at least from my side, although from her side she was suffering from severe back pains. Hearing on Monday from Jonny that Ruth had passed that morning was like clicking on a mine and being completely stunned. I felt like I’d been halfway through the game (it was in the middle of the afternoon and we were doing our devos at Sabor Cafe) and suddenly out of nowhere clicking on a mine, as if it were the beginning of the game and I had no idea what was what or where. It took me a couple hours to take it in as reality, and it was only when Rebekah tenderly embraced me and when I saw the gift I’d been saving for Ruth that I was able to register it somewhere in a deeper place in my mind and into a place in my heart that had been in denial and confusion about it. Then, connecting Ruth’s passing with personally emotional realizations that she wouldn’t be at my graduation, wedding, and other big-transition-life-events that are made special by the presence of dear friends and family, helped me get more in touch with the deep sadness I felt at her absence…and begin to grieve, which is necessary to process, accept, ideally learn, and move on.
Anyway, I realize I don’t want to go through life watching out for mines. Keeping vigilant in a general sense, yes, and becoming more and more familiar for myself and for others with signs of “trouble” coming, yes, but not fearful of uncovering spaces because there just might be a mine waiting to explode and “end” (emotionally/mentally) the day, no.
I’ll keep playing Mineswept though, because there’s a thrill and a sense of completion and victory from winning each game on my own – especially when it’s taken some investment of energy to focus and pace myself. It’s a good practice of focusing for me, for my eyes, hand, and mind…and with a regular practice of counting and looking around. It develops my S and my T for sure!
Praise the Lord for games 🙂 I hope to come across games like this to use with teaching children and young people (someday adults too?) skills that come in handy for life and relationship.
And…no more Cmd + D for the day. I’ll just keep starting over until I improve…at least for the day, maybe the week? We’ll see.
Sometimes I just get too discouraged to play anymore if I keep losing over and over again.
And…perhaps someday I won’t need to start w/the first “safe” space highlighted.
Edit – and that wonderful, refreshing feeling of clicking on one space and watching a whole area unearth itself, highlighting the obvious mines, and just getting me closer to a quick completion…sometimes a word of prophecy from Scripture, worship, an event, experience, encounter, or straight from the Holy Spirit to my mind and heart…has the same effect on me. Praise God for those! Strength for the journey, I say 🙂
And the best thing about those is that there is one in EVERY game. “His mercies are new every morning.”
AND…pause buttons. Sigh~ THere is so much grace in life to be had! If only we’d all take more advantage of it. I can ALWAYS press pause. Sometimes it’s as simple and humble as getting up and going to the bathroom to take a breather and “catch my breath,” even if it’s my spiritual/mental/emotional breath. And other times, it’s as corny and geeky as taking a break (or a few breaks) in between Mineswept games to reflect, process, write/journal/blog about it.