March 14, 2010

I Find God in the Oddest Places

She is neither a real person nor someone of my own creation but a character from a computer game.

Her name is neither Jaclyn nor Jacqueline but Jack.

And it took me the longest time to puzzle out why, with nine other computer characters to befriend and talk to, Jack remained my favorite.

Her character is unexpected and unconventional, even for a science fiction, space-exploring, futuristic computer game. You first meet her on a prison ship, where she's kept under lock and key as an inmate; she is incredibly strong, completely bald, and covered head-to-toe in a bold, complex pattern of tatoos. She has a mouth that would scare any sailor, and you later learn she's on the prison ship for murder.

Not the sort of person you'd really want to cozy up to, you know? Certainly not BFF material, nor the kind of woman you'd invite to chick flick night.

Nevertheless, as the game progressed, I found myself fascinated by Jack. Not by her "bad girl" persona, but by something else.

I took every opportunity to talk with her as I played the game; in all conversations with your characters, you can either respond with understanding and empathy or with irritation and disinterest. I chose the former route with Jack. And the more I responded with kindness, the more her tough, crude exterior began to fall away. Little by little, she let her guard down and piece by piece, she shared her story:

Jack was raised by neither parents nor guardians, but by a host of scientists who performed experiments on her from the earliest age.

She had neither friends nor enemies, but lived out her childhood in near-total isolation.

She had been abused in most ways a child can be; manipulated, used, and exploited, she quickly learned no one was safe. Until now.

As the game's story line unfolds, I slowly earn Jack's trust. At first, she thinks I'm just being nice because I want something. Then gradually, she begins to understand I'm nice because I genuinely care about her. And that realization changes her.

Jack begins to see the world differently. She begins to exhibit empathy where none existed before. She still talks rough and gruff, but after a few encounters with her past, I also discover she's capable of compassion.

Then it hit me one morning while I did dishes and thought thoughts wholly unconnected with the game: I was watching a redemption story unfold right before my eyes. Heck, I even got to participate in it! Jack was a modern-day "man of the tombs" who was so broken, no one would touch her. She hated the world because the world had always hated her. Yet, when someone offered her a bit of understanding and friendship, what an unparalleled difference it made! Just like the man of the tombs. Just like so many others. Just like me.

Turns out, Jack is my favorite character because deep down, I know there's a little piece of her living in me. A dark, bitter side of me I prefer others not see, but which exists all the same. A broken, angry part of my soul that yearns for kindness, empathy, and salvation.

She may not be real. Her story may be vastly different from mine. But her redemption is beautiful to watch nonetheless. Stories affect us in powerful ways, whether they are read in books or played out on computer screens. Jack's story reminds me of who I am, where I came from. It reminds me of my need for a Savior.

"It's your kindness that leads us to repentence, oh Lord.

Knowing that You love us, no matter what we do

Makes us want to love You, too." --Leslie Phillips "Your Kindness"


Mama Sue said...

Thanks again for the post. I can't wait to read the books I believe are in your heart and mind to have published. This one is a good reality check for all of us. We more than likely have someone in our lives like that. Or have in the past. Sometimes only the compassion of the Lord can reach them.
Keep writing. Love, Mom

ladyfelicity said...

Hmm ... fascinating! I didn't know computer games could be so interractive and ... real! There's obviously a lesson in your experience with "Jack" - thank you for sharing it, Nicole!

Nicole said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Me-Me! I love you, too. :)

Elisabeth, it's crazy how real some computer games can be! Like stepping into another world . . . I have to work hard sometimes not to get addicted to them. :)