I started playing chess last week. I had been discussing with a friend the ways in which we process life and make decisions when he asked if I'd ever played the game before.
You see, I sort my life out by analysing the choices, testing where they might lead and choosing the best, or most interesting, one. I don't always get it right, but this kind of thinking is entirely appropriate for such an ancient king of strategy games.
A few days later, we visited another friend's house where a well-made marble board sat nestled among books, guarded by its players. Once the chess set was brought out there was no going back. I was hooked.
So far I can count the number of rounds I've played on one hand, with fingers left over, but even these few times have made me conscious of how fit a metaphor the game of chess is for life.
Watch closely, think hard
When playing chess one has to pay attention; what is perceived of a situation is extremely important. Diligent observation and thinking hard are both required. Good analysis of what might happen next is also needed and contingency planning can make or break a game.
This is true of our lives too. We need to understand what is happening on the board and with the players just as we need to understand our own selves and what is happening in our daily lives.
We also need to be able to plan for the future and make the best decisions we can with what we have. It may look different for each person but simply living is too complicated to be done thoughtlessly.
Act considerately—but act
Thinking is essential but ultimately we must act. How much more true is this in reality than in chess? If all we ever did was sit around philosophising and theorising we would never get anything done.
Amelia Earhart is attributed with saying, "The most effective way to do [something], is to do it." When we know what to do, it's time to start. As my friend taught me, the best way is to start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. I like to add that we should do what we can with decisiveness and style, owning our responsibility for our actions.
Utilise your gifts
Careful conservation of resources—our players—and well-timed deployment in a game of chess is crucial for making any progress. Risk assessment cannot be avoided. The humble pawn needs to be used as thoughtfully as the mighty queen, despite how it differs in strength.
Every piece on the chess board is in this sense a gift. It's there with its unique strengths and weaknesses to help you win the war.
It's the same with all the things we have in our own lives. A pawn might be our money, a knight our able bodies, a bishop our ability to think and the queen our decisiveness. Every trait and resource we individually have is a gift to be used for good, to move forward and to help others.
Protect what's valuable
The moment the king is left unprotected and vulnerable it's all over in a game of chess—checkmate. Because of this, though every other player is valuable and serves their part, he is in the end the most important player.
But what's most important might just be weakest too—a king crippled to moving only one step at a time. Likewise, what is most important to us in life is crippled.
That important thing is our soul and we are dead in sin, not just lame. We are born inclined to evil, desiring what is not right and hating God, who made us.
Chess teaches us that we can live the most thoughtful, well-planned and action-filled lives, using all we have carefully and freely to move ahead and help others and promote our cause—but if we fail to take care of what is most value we will at last lose.
Matthew chapter 16, verse 26 puts it this way, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?"
Nothing can bring back a dead king. If left unprotected, nothing can bring back a lost soul either. But Jesus offers all the safety and refuge we need when we believe. He alone truly allows us to live our lives strategically, mastering the twists and turns of its chessboard pattern by His strength and grace.
Irenie How was rescued from darkness by the grace of God when she was running away from Him. God showed her that He is the Lord and she wants you to know this too. She works as a graphic designer in Christchurch, New Zealand. Check out some of her work on Behance and drop her a line!
Irenie How's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/irenie-how.html