Christian Community

Players in the Story

Corban and I have been talking about role-playing games a lot lately, Dungeons & Dragons in particular since it is the best-known, most-popular role-playing game. Neither of us have played the game, but we are both interested. As a writer, I am intrigued by the idea of collaborative storytelling. On a personal level, however, I am interested in the concept of creating a character with backstory, motivations, and skill points. The game has rules that help players decide how a character responds to situations and moral dilemmas. There are also rules that help characters overcome challenges (such as combat, sneaking, hunting, and so on), typically involving looking at a number assigned to a character’s skill and rolling dice. If you roll high enough, your character succeeds.

Having a character sheet that helps you through challenges intrigues me, especially since I graduated. One reason I went back to school was to learn more skills so I could find a new job. I succeeded in both of those tasks. Another reason I went back to school was to find more clues to a personal purpose and direction in my life. And while having more financial stability is a wonderful thing, I still struggle with that purpose and direction. There are a lot of things I’m good at that people will pay me for—a lot of things that I have lots of skill points in—but not very many of them inspire passion or joy. I confess that I struggle with this, and I sometimes wish I had a character sheet that tells me how to play myself. My Myers-Briggs profile has helped a bit with that; my transcript, not so much.

I’ve gained comfort from studying people such as David and Paul. Both of them had great skills, though from different experiences and backstories. Both were used by God to help people see God’s graciousness and love, but both had periods where their purpose and direction seemed uncertain. I sometimes get more comfort from David’s darker Psalms than praise songs because sometimes David more effectively captures how I feel:

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”—Psalm 57:1 – 2

“But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast me off? Why do you hide your face from me?” –Psalm 88:13 – 14

The challenge of being a character in a story is that, even if you have an idea of what story you are in, your moves and actions are not always clear. Even in a game, whether you succeed or fail in your actions, a good game master (the person who runs the game) molds the story so the players have fun and the story continues to unfold until its end.

David knew what story he was in, and he always returned to it even after times of doubt. It’s safe to assume he didn’t find much purpose or direction while living in caves as he was hunted by King Saul. Joseph probably didn’t find much purpose or direction while in prison after being accused of illicit relations with his boss’s wife. Paul may have questioned the choices he made as he washed up on an island after a storm destroyed the ship he was on. But in the end, each of these men continued to play the game they were in.

So while I don’t have a character sheet that tells me where to work, what to spend my time on for rest and refreshment, where to go, and when to go there, I have chosen to trust that someone who knows more than me is running the game. He knows how the story ends even when it doesn’t make sense to me. This is my act of trust. For me, this is faith.