All that aside, I've found that board games in general carry a very deep meaning for me beyond just the fun that I derive from playing them. I figured this out recently when I did what a lot of board gamers do and tried to rate my top ten of all time. Most of my favorite games have great theme to them along with really sound mechanics as well. If a game has mechanics that just don't make sense or even worse favor luck too heavily, it usually is just not a very good one. That aside I could not stop myself from rating this game as my favorite game of all time:
This game is my favorite of all time, and always will be, because of how I came to even know about this game at all. A couple of men, and one in particular, invited me to play this game a couple of late Saturday nights after our youth group was over. They showed me kindness by giving me something that very few other men ever gave me, genuine interest in my company and welfare. They didn't just ask me how I was doing, pray for me at an altar call, and then send me on my way. Though these guys did this stuff for me also, they gave me their personal time as well. They invited me into their lives and shared something that they personally thought was fun and asked me to enjoy it with them. They affirmed me as a person when I didn't think that anybody really even cared that I existed beyond filling a seat in a youth group. More than just sitting down for an evening of butchering each other's units (as well as the names of many Japanese provinces! so fun!), this game to me represents one of the first times that I ever felt like I belonged, particularly with other men.
The funny thing is, I had no idea how profound those times would be while I was still in the moment. I did not consider these men to be the coolest people of all time, but they were available. I did not always like every activity we did together, but they reached out and invited me. I'm sure when they tried to help me spiritually both sides just left frustrated because I was too immature to really grow at all, yet all these years later I realize that those few weekend nights meant more to me and impacted me more deeply than the hundreds of sermons I've heard preached. I'm not saying that God has never moved me to repentance and life change through a sermon, because He has, but I don't remember more than one or two of them. Every single moment that this fatherless soul spent just playing a stupid game until the wee hours with just a couple of guys who cared still matters to me eighteen years later. Seems like the return on investment and the kind of work the Lord accomplished through authentic brotherly affections was much greater than anything else I've ever known outside of the direct voice of the Lord to my heart. Though the acceptance of these men did not fill the hole in my heart designed for God alone, it is one of the very few personal images I have of the Father's heart.
To the few of you out there that accepted me just as I was and pulled me in, gave me someplace to belong and made me feel like I mattered to somebody, even though I was incredibly annoying, thank you. Your time was a more valuable gift than just about anything else I've ever received.