I forgot how to play the game of chess. This week, someone refreshed my memory: my seven-year-old daughter. Annie challenged me a few nights ago. She set up the board, reminded me of the names of the pieces, and we began to play.
She slowly went through the rules, explaining which ways the pieces could travel and where and when I would lose if my step was unwise. I know chess is about tactics and strategies, a game in which every move is calculated and well-planned. But I couldn’t help but wonder: how much of chess is moving the pieces and how much of chess is understanding the mind of your opponent? For most of the game, my eyes were glued on the queen, pawns and bishops. But finally, I looked into the eyes of my daughter.
Methodical, pondering eyes. Eyes occasionally watching the diagonals on the board, eyes really watching to see if I was looking at her. I may have lost the game of chess but catching my daughter smile: I won a game I never knew I was playing.
We strategize, plan, calculate, and rearrange the details of our days trying to achieve success. We play games, wondering which paths to take in order to climb higher, get more recognition, and find ways to be seen. There are hundreds of books written about how to be a better professional, parent, spouse, child and friend. But sometimes, it isn’t about following the set rules, finding the shortcuts, or buying every how-to. Sometimes, the game changes when we merely look and see who it is that is sitting across the table.
When I looked at Annie, the game faded, the rules changed. When God created the world, no instruction book was handed off to Adam and Eve. Which means, with each unique human being, we start the game anew: learning, connecting, engaging in soulful understanding.
May the games begin.