Monday, April 27, 2009

Mahjong Safari

When I'm too tired to write, but also too tired to read, and I don't want to waste my brain energy on a television show, I play this game called Mahjong Safari on a site called

Mahjong Safari relaxes me and for some reason infuses my brain with more creativity. This weekend, as I languished with my stomach virus, I played a lot of Mahjong Safari -- and in doing so, I came to an important revelation about myself and the way that I try to reach others for Jesus.


You heard me right -- playing Mahjong Safari actually helped me figure out a little puzzle in my evangelism approach.

OK ... so first let's back up, because I have to explain how this game works before I can tell you why it changed my way of thinking on talking about Jesus.

You receive a bunch of "tiles" with pictures on them, and you have to match the tiles. They are presented to you in a pattern. The rule, though, is that you can only make a match with two or fewer connecting lines. Additionally, if a tile is hemmed in by others, it's inaccessible. You have to eliminate the tiles around it before you can try to connect it. (What I like about Mahjong Safari are the little animal sounds every time I make a match, but that's actually beside the point.)

As I play this game, I begin to frustrate myself. I can immediately see the tiles with easy matches. But I don't want to go for those tiles. I study the entire pattern and try to pinpoint the tiles that are hardest to reach. Then I study it some more to figure out what must be done to remove the tiles in the way .... so that I can make the most challenging connections.

However, in doing so, I begin to defeat myself. A little clock in the right-hand column limits my time. If I don't make a connection within a certain time period, the game quits completely, and I have to start afresh. So I have just lost the opportunity to eliminate the easy tiles -- and in doing so, I've lost the entire board.

Do you see where I'm headed now?

It hit me last night that I've handled a lot of situations in my life this way. People who like me easily don't get the same type of attention from me as people who are more distant. I make more of an effort to be friends with those who are harder to get. I did the same thing with dating relationships for years -- men who might have been great matches for me were ignored while I focused on those who were more of a challenge. (I finally married the man who asked me out every week for four months straight before I said yes to the first date. How dumb can a person be?)

I carry this same type of attitude into my quest to tell people about Jesus. There are a lot of people who are easily open to hearing about Him. But I don't focus on them. I focus on those who are most resistant to Him. It's as if, by winning them over, I feel I have accomplished more.

God really convicted me of this last night. "Why," He asked, "would you ignore the people who are jumping up and down for more information about Me? You are missing out on an opportunity. This isn't about proving your worth as an effective communicator. This is about reaching people for Me."

I don't really know all of the psychological reasons that I tend to do this. But the important point is ... I've realized that I'm doing it.

Who knew that a weekend with a stomach bug and a marathon of Mahjong Safari would lead me to this conclusion?

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