Bear with me.
One weekend this summer, after having my nephews over to play on the Xbox and going to church the next day, the thought came to me that our relationship with God is a lot like a feature in the videogame called Minecraft. In that game, which is about mining, gathering, building and surviving in a PG landscape, a player can tame wild creatures, called ocelots, and change them into kitty cats. I tried to use this imagery from the ordinary lives of my little ones to teach them about Life Itself – and in the process, I learned something, too.
The Minecraft player has to trap the ocelot into a confined space and hold a fish, offering it to the creature. The wild creature will briefly look at the player and then go away into a corner, sometimes hesitating there a long while before coming back. Hearts will start to form over the creature’s head, indicating not only its desire for the offered fish, but also its growing affability toward the player. Sometimes, eye contact will be held between the ocelot and the player for several minutes, with many hearts floating up – and then the ocelot will skitter away again, turning its back on the player. The player will move in front of the creature again and wait some more. Sometimes, the waiting is quite long (and I’m impressed that my young nephews have had the patience to wait it out.) Then, finally, after much eye contact and a sea of hearts, just when you think it will never happen – the change occurs.
The spotted, wild creature has become a domesticated cat.
It even looks different, like a black-and-white cat, a siamese, or an orange tabby, although you never know what specific kind of kitty the ocelot will become until after the change. The transformed animal will follow the player wherever the player goes – it will even teleport through closed doors to be by the player’s side, unless the player makes the cat sit down before leaving. Wherever they may be sitting, the cats will always recognize the player passing by and meow.
So… how is this like our relationship with God?
Well, we are like wild creatures whom God desires to change into higher versions of ourselves. Sadly, too often, we totally ignore God and so never enter into a divinely loving and transforming relationship with Him. So we are never changed. But, God continually does things to get our attention. Sometimes, those things make us feel like we are stuck in confined spaces. It is right there, however, in that tough spot, that God is offering us something wonderful – something much more than fish or any perishable food. God offers us God’s very self and wants us to look at Him and receive His love.
God does this most directly and pointedly when He comes down from Heaven to live among us: Christ Jesus. In him, through him, and with him, we are able to intimately enter into loving relationship with God – as God offers Himself to us through the Incarnation and the Sacrifice on the Cross. And, so, also, perpetually, God offers Godself to us in Holy Communion and through all of the Sacraments – through the Church, the priests, and even through our fellow human beings who act in the loving ways of God.
What do we do in response?
Well, some desire might be stirred up within us (a heart or two may appear over our heads) but we often run away. We turn our backs on God. Perhaps, we are afraid of the unknown – we are afraid of the pending transformation that we can sense in our souls. We are afraid that being transformed will mean that we will no longer be able to be ourselves – we want to do our own thing, wild, and we do not want to follow God’s will, tamed. But, what we don’t realize is that we only become fully ourselves through the transformative power of divine love – through the worship of God. We were never meant to be ocelots and we will never be truly joyful by remaining wild. We were always meant to be transformed by receiving God’s love and all that God has to offer us, to follow God’s will. Then, and only then, we are able to give divine love ourselves and know true, deep, and lasting joy.
Out Of the Mouths of Babes
I told my nephews (ages 11 and 8) a much shorter and simpler version of this thought, trying to use everything I can to catechize them.
Matthew, the oldest, looked at me with his big blue eyes and I knew that a part of him was uncomfortable with this kind of God talk (he is my cautious/studious one). But he was really listening and I believe that a seed was sown. Nathan, the youngest, was listening and thinking about what I said, too. And it made him remember what he did the last time that he transformed ocelots into cats. He tried to justify why he had kept killing the siamese cats after they had been transformed. I knew it was because he and Matthew only wanted one tabby cat and one black-and-white, to be like the real cats that they have at home. (And, yes – I could go through a whole lesson just from that! I admit it disturbed me when they were doing it, but I did have to remember that it’s just a game.) On the day that I gave the comparison to God’s love, however, Nathan told me why he did what he did in a different way.
I could see him, with a cute look on his face, trying to explain it in a way that would fit the analogy of my storytelling (he is my poet). He said that he killed the videogame cats because he had a demon in him – because he was the devil. That got a big grin from me and Matthew laughed. “That’s brilliant,” I said, “because it just goes to show you that you need to be careful what you worship. You may want something and obsess over it and worship it – but then it turns out to be the devil and it kills you.”
We are only to worship God, and we are to worship God with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our strength – nothing else will do for our fulfillment. For, as St. Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in You.”
© 2014 Christina Chase