Life Lessons From Candy Land: Sweet But Not The Sweetest

Candy Land is a nostalgic game for many of us. Eleanor Abbot, the inventor of this “delicious” game, was brilliant in her attempt at enticing children with chocolate promises and sprinkled confections. What kid doesn’t like sugar? We purchased the classic board game this past Christmas partly because I wanted to have a few warm “throw back” moments with my kids. “Ahhh, we are playing a game mommy used to play with her mommy…. special times!”
Thus far, Candy Land has been anything but an “enchanted place filled with candy, sweets and yummy treats” (as reads the back of the game box). My son, James, starts Kindergarten next month (yes, I just shed a few tears). To say that he does not like to lose would be a gross understatement. In fact, he hates losing. What complicates the matter is that this Miss America Reject knows nothing about “first runner up” in board games. In fact, I kick some serious “tale” in the game of Candy Land. I have actually tried to lose and can’t. Some people just have serious skills. Okay, so I’m being sarcastic; obviously, I understand that winning in Candy Land requires no talent and is purely luck of the draw (I know that since I’m “Reformed,” I’m not supposed to use the word luck, but you know what I mean). Anytime I get a good card – you know, one of those magical cards with a picture of lollypops or a cupcake that sends you way ahead on the rainbow path, leaving your enemies in your gumdrop dust – when this happens, my son gets angry as a hornet and quits the game. Granted, he has tried some methods to increase his chance of a victory. These methods, although I do not recommend them, consist first of him getting mom to look the other way. Second, he’ll volunteer to stack the deck himself. Recently, his most extensive effort has been to simply have an all out emotional breakdown. Yep; it’s true. The apple does not fall far from the tree.
The other day, the Lord used Candy Land to teach me a “God lesson.” I was getting ready to win (once again) and then it happened. I drew one of those magical cards. However, this time, the card sent me back down to Cupcake Commons at the beginning of the game! Finally, I was going to lose. Did I cry or throw the board across the playroom floor? No! Of course not. Being the mature pastor’s wife that I am, I took my little gingerbread man back to the beginning with impeccable sportsmanship and a front-row-of-the-Baptist-church smile. My son looked at me with complete confusion and what appeared to be genuine sadness. Then he said, “Mommy, let’s just pretend that you didn’t get that card. We can stick it back in the deck.” He was sincerely concerned for my wellbeing (the kid acts like I have melt downs or something). Knowing how bad losing felt, James did not want his mommy to feel the same letdown.
This was so sweet and compassionate, but at the same time, it was incredibly revealing. The reason my son would get so painstakingly angry is because winning was his treasure. His identity and security was wrapped up in wins and losses. He had to hold on to winning with everything he had, even if it meant cheating. These teachable moments are always available, but typically I’m so busy or distracted (or lazy) I fail to take advantage of them. This time, God’s grace allowed me to show my son that the reason mommy was not angry with a Candy Land loss is because mommy has a treasure far greater than winning a game. Mommy has Jesus. I do not have to win Candy Land – the “Kingdom of Sweet Adventures” – because my hope is in another Kingdom, “a kingdom that cannot be shaken,” according to the writer of Hebrews. Even when I fail at winning a game, I’ve not been ultimately failed, because my security is in Jesus who cannot and will not fail me. When I don’t feel accepted by others because of my performance and flaws, I can still have an inner joy because I know that God accepts me in spite of my flaws because each and every flaw has been washed away from my account by the blood of Jesus. When I receive criticism and condemnation for my shortcomings, I don’t despair, because Jesus perfectly loves and embraces me and says there is no condemnation remaining for me.
Why are these things true about a woman that fails miserably so much of the time? Because Jesus came and lived the perfect life and then He died the death that I should have died. He’s promised me that I have an inheritance in heaven (Eph. 1:13) and nothing or no one can take that away. The things of this earth were never meant to make me happy. The emptiness James feels when he loses (and the emptiness that we all feel when we fail) is ultimately to point us to the cross where Jesus bled for our sins.
Paul Tripp says it well, “We’re fat, disappointed, driven, in debt, and addicted because we treat this here and now moment as if it were all that we have. We have acted as though it is a destination, when all that is going on now is somehow, someway a preparation for the final destination that is to come.” God didn’t create us for “our best life now” (as some would understand it); rather, we can rest assure that the best is yet to come. There is a land that is coming that is far better and far sweeter than the prized possession at the end of Candy Land.
As a Christian, there are days when we flip over those magic cards – feeling amazing and so close to God. Other days we will get a card that we do not like or that “sets us back,” and we may legitimately ask the question, “If God really loves me, how could he allow this to happen to me?” However, we don’t know that God loves us based upon our current circumstances (which will fluctuate like the wind). Rather, we can be fully persuaded that God loves us because He gave us His Son on a tree 2,000 years ago. Nothing screams LOVE louder than a bloody cross. Even when we don’t “feel it,” His goodness never changes. His love never changes. However, our perspective does. Are we obsessed with our own kingdoms: sprinkles and lollipop lands? Or is our hope in His kingdom? Winning cannot make us happy. Sex cannot make us happy. Having obedient children will not make us happy. Having the body of a supermodel will not make us happy. Money, comfort, and health were never meant to sustain our joy. Finally, consider the words of C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Candy Land is great, but it’s not the end of the world.

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