The title is true, and it could take another dozen moves to get ready.
You see, life is a bit like chess. Checkmate happens after one right move. But, it may take 50 moves to get everything in place for that one move.
With chess, setup is the whole point. It’s a game of strategy, intellect, and not least, patience. The rules of life are not near as predictable. When faced with a new job, family illness, moral failure of a leader, or financial hardship, it may feel like you’re playing a half-dozen chess games at once.
At times like these—when relationships are stretched, careers are in flux, finances are out of control—waves of anxiety swell. We're tempted to pound out ten moves at once, searching for checkmate, but life ticks on, one move at a time.
I've found myself in situations like these. One of my first leadership positions was in youth ministry at a local church while I was in college. The church was in a time of transition. Staff positions were changing, and I put pressure on our leadership team to increase our commitment level. But it was the way I put pressure that caused problems. After trying to make my perspectives known in smaller settings to no avail, I boldly and rashly expressed them in an all-staff, all-volunteer meeting. Needless to say, my perspectives weren't well received, and worse, relationships were hurt in the process. It's not that my points were bad. It's that I was trying to force checkmate while God was still setting the board.
What do we do when life gives us an opponent beyond our ability? Or, when we’re in more games than we can play at once?
Do you feel you’re closer to hearing checkmate than declaring it yourself? When you’re here, I've found remembering three things is essential:
- If you're still engaging in the game, victory is possible. Like the old running adage, “No matter how slow you're running, you’re still faster than the guy on his couch!” Every game has losses on both sides. If you’re the least bit competitive, you know how it feels to see your pieces taken by your opponent and piled up next to the board. It’s this feeling that keeps many (if not most) people from engaging in the high-stakes game of life. The fact that you’re still digging in shows you’re one of the bold few willing to take risks. Pause, breathe deeply, and let the pursuit of a well-lived life bring you back to centre. Remember, it’s that pursuit that got you to engage in the first place.
- You’re one piece in a bigger game. Although we’d like to think our game is the only one going on, we’re actually part of a much larger game. Your next move affects a lot of people. Your best move may depend on circumstances and decisions beyond your control. It’s with this that we remember we’re not actually the chess master after all. There’s a God who keeps watch to perform his will (see Jeremiah 1:12). Would you experience uncertainty and pain in patience for the betterment of your closest friends or children? When you choose to stay engaged in the game, you’re doing just that. Don’t give up now, others' lives are at stake.
- Your growth and future success depend on this game. What if I told you the game isn’t only about your final, victorious move? What if the game you’re in now is about growing you into a person that can handle higher stakes, greater opponents, and more transformational successes? You see, each move doesn’t only get you closer to victory, it also trains you to be a better player.
What situations are you begging would end now? Take time today to consider that your current circumstances may be the very things preparing you for your future.
Suggested reading: James 1:2-4 MSG