I have a secret habit that most people don't know about.
I'm a Scrabble fanatic.
I love to sit there and mix the letters around in my tray looking for the highest scoring word. I love plotting how to get the most bonus squares into a turn, and I love how no game is ever the same. It's possible to get a really high score with just one letter but to only get a single digit score using 6 letters and very creative words.
The best part of the game, the real high, comes whenever I can make a "bingo" (all 7 letters in the tray played at once). This takes both luck and intuition. I've seen very experienced opponents come up with bingos using letters I would have dismissed as unworkable. It takes a lot of practice to get a sense of when your letters will make a bingo and when they won't. When they do work, the reward is not only the value of the word but also 50 bonus points. It's a great way to break free from a neck-and-neck struggle.
But don't get me wrong, my love for Scrabble isn't just about maximizing the points on each turn. It's a journey. And no, I'm not stretching the analogy too far. Ok, maybe a little.
A few minutes ago, I played the final move in a game that has been going on for a week or two with 2 of my toughest opponents. They both got bingos very early on in the game, one of which was over 100 points just by itself. I languished back by between 50 and 100 points most of the game. My letters just wouldn't work in the places I had to play. The temptation was to just write this off as another loss. But I have learned that in Scrabble, as in life, it's not over until the final play.
So, each turn I played the best word that I could, considering what I had to work with. Four of my eight plays were only 20 points. It was not looking good.
Right before my final play of the game, the scoring looked like this:
Player A: 240
Player B: 249
And that was when I was able to lay down a bingo (AWARDERS). It changed the whole game, and even though I had been losing by a wide margin all along, I came out the winner in the end. It was the game-changing play.
I think it is going to be that way for a lot of us when we come to the end of our lives. We either gave up trying to follow God long ago, or we kept on making the most faithful decisions we could considering the tiles we'd been dealt. Sometimes those decisions made in faith just seem to set us back further. Godless people can prosper and faithful people can struggle. But considering that the game is not over until God says it is, I take great comfort in persisting despite how things appear. Persevering when it looks like all is lost is just like continuing to make small 20 point plays while my opponents racked up the points. It seemed foolish to keep inching forward with great effort when I would surely lose, but all those inches added up so that when I was able to place all that I had on the table, I came out winning by a single point.
We are building a foundation inch-by-inch, brick-by-brick, in every decision of obedience to the Lord. Do not give up and grow weary because circumstances are against you, because you experience failure, or because you do not feel or see God. Obedient decisions do not always yield immediate reward, but as believers, we are called to press on in faith till the very end.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.