Pickaxes and Diamonds

Don’t judge me.

Recently I’ve started playing Minecraft.

Some of you reading this might also play. Most people have probably heard of Minecraft, even if it’s just to buy an expensive Minecraft branded plushie for the kids at Christmas! However, for the uninitiated, Minecraft is what is known as a ‘sandbox’ game. You create a character which is then spawned (Minecraft speak) into a newly created, unique and endless world which is ripe for exploration with the obligatory mining and er … crafting. On the Minecraft official website, they say of the game: “Prepare for an adventure of limitless possibilities as you build, mine, battle mobs, and explore the ever-changing Minecraft landscape.”

The game has no purpose unless you create one for yourself. You cut down trees, farm animals, and mine for diamonds, iron, and gold among many other useful materials. Want to build a house? Chop down a tree. Want to create a better pickaxe? Find some iron (and smelt it). This blocky, 3D world with simple graphics, colours and presented from a first-person perspective (you’re looking through the eyes of your character) can be as challenging as you want it to be and as frantic or chilled out as you can handle.

Officially released in 2011, though there were a few years of beta and alpha releases before that, Minecraft is now the best selling game of all time. Microsoft, the company that makes the Windows operating system and the creators of the Xbox, see so much potential in it that they purchased the game from it’s original independent creator, Markus “Notch” Persson in 2014 for $2.5 billion US dollars.

There are two ways to play the game. The first is to play it in ‘survival’ mode. This mode means you start the game with nothing, and through the processes of mining and farming, you build up all the resources you need to survive the game, build your base and terraform the land. When played on a server, you get to enjoy this experience with other players from all around the world, in real-time. There are also ‘monsters’ within the game that would like to do you harm and so these you have to fend off with the various weapons that you create. Now, don’t worry, these aren’t that scary, as with everything in Minecraft they’re blocky and silly looking, and you can actually turn these off and still be in survival mode.

The second way to play Minecraft is in ‘creative’ mode. Monsters can’t hurt you and, indeed, don’t bother you at all. Every single resource that in survival you would’ve had to work hard for is freely available for you to play with as you wish. In this mode, it’s a little like a digital version of lego. You can let your imagination run wild without all the hassle of mining and farming.

A few days ago as I played Minecraft with my daughter, she did something which caused my in-game demise and the way that my character ‘died’ meant that all the stuff that I had with me in my virtual inventory disappeared too. We’d been mining for a while, and we’d gathered a lot of resources. For all this to go in the blink of a giant spider’s red-eye was quite disappointing. However, my daughter said to me a little while later, “It’s okay, we can just go into creative mode, get back what we lost, and then switch it back to survival mode.” I accepted her proposal and let her go ahead and do what she needed to do. Sure enough, we had our resources and supplies back in abundance.

Expect … it felt a little like cheating. It didn’t matter how hard we worked in survival mode when I knew that we could always switch over modes and get what we wanted if we felt our virtual life wasn’t giving us what we needed.

This action gave me pause for thought. What if real life worked a little like Minecraft? What if we could, at any time, switch over modes to get everything we ever needed and only occasionally flick to survival for a cheap thrill and adrenalin rush? It might feel, and be, incredible, no more struggles, no more striving, no more annoying work to take up our time. And of course, we’d banish war as there would be no need to fight for resources and no one would ever go hungry.

Unfortunately, life on Earth isn’t like that, and for most people, it doesn’t approach anything near this kind of luxury and freedom. Life can be hard and tough. Most of us will have to work all our adult life, and for the generation known as Generation X, of which I’m one, we don’t even know what kind of retirement we can look forward to. Even though we might not be able to switch on creative mode right now, I’d like to suggest that we don’t fall into a mindset of despondency and cynicism. In a lot of ways, the phrase, “life is what you make it” is very true. We could choose to look at our lot in life and feel pretty miserable, or we could approach work and our experiences as lessons in developing character. We could choose to maintain a positive outlook when all we can see is clouds and stormy weather ahead.

Sometimes our workload is massive, and our work environment dull at best, or emotionally draining at worst. What do we do in these situations? Do we let what we’re experiencing rule us, or is it possible that we can take back control? Could we check our attitude first towards our work and instead of facing another soul-crushing day, we decide to be as industrious as we can be and give 100%? How would this change our approach, how might this positively affect those around us? Could it set an excellent example to those who look up to us and might be following our lead?

Christians are encouraged and challenged with the idea that our lives are not our own and that all we do, we do as if we’re working directly for God! Our attitude should be one that honours God, with those around us noticing the way we work and support ourselves.

If I could, I would switch creative mode on for our world right now, because creative mode sounds a little bit like Heaven. In the Book of Revelation, which is the final book of the Bible it talks about a New Heaven, and a New Earth, the spiritual and physical realms joined as one. One without monsters of all kinds, no pain, no death, no sorrow. Our imagination will be unbound as we finally realise who are in God, who is limitless in His creativity and therefore, so are we.

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