Derrick was the best, nicest Christian in the whole school. . .
If you could really call him a Christian.
He walked with all the ugly, poor, and mentally challenged kids at school and everybody loved him for it. He practiced his Bible verses on the bus and knew them better than anyone at church. He was the go-between for his parents and his rebellious brother and sister. He had a very kind-hearted, pretty girlfriend and left romantic notes on her locker every day. He worked hard in his classes and when everybody was cheating off of each others’ papers, he was very proud that his eyes didn’t wander.
But pride was the problem that his whole house of cards was built on . . .
He didn’t realize he was jostling it when after six months of dating his girlfriend he dumped her. “She’s a great girl,” he thought to himself, “and it sounds terrible but I think i can get better.” He broke it off after church, in a very polite and proper way but she was devastated and cried for days. Although he was lonely sometimes, he found himself already looking for better girls.
It wasn’t until a month later that the house of cards got a bigger push and his life crashed down. It happened when another boy asked her out. The guy that asked her out was older, better looking, had a job and a car already, and played football on varsity. PLUS, this new boy was a very strong Christian. This is when Derrick realized his mistake was that he stayed with her until he thought he could get better, not because he really loved her. She had loved him with true, real love, even though she COULD have gotten someone better looking and more talented the whole time.
A realization hit Derrick like a football tackle. On the inside he was just as selfish as everyone else, if not more. He didn’t really love anybody. Everything he did was to look better than everybody else. On the third and deepest day of his depression is when he had a dream.
Derick lifted his head and saw he was in a little control room, with two large, eye-shaped windows in front of him. He looked down at the control panel his head had been resting on. It was covered in lights and buttons. The buttons were labeled things like “Smile kindly” or “give a complement,” and there were switches that could be turned to things like “act compassionate” or “act humble.” There were levers sticking out of the ground beside his stool that were labeled, “Move arms” or “Move legs.” There was a microphone sticking out of the control panel near him through which he could make the machine say things. He was a little creature controlling a human body!
He looked around him and saw score sheets and pie charts proudly hanging on the walls of his control room. And there was a vinyl sticker of a beautiful girl, stuck to the big wall behind the control panel.
He got up from his little stool and stepped to the wall where he looked at the first chart. At the top it said, “How Good I Am:” he looked at the list under the title and it listed all the names of the people that he was nice to on a daily basis.
The next chart was the number of Bible verses he had memorized compared to the other people he knew. He was beating pretty much everybody. Then he looked at a chart that said, “How good of a son am I?” and it was a bar chart that compared himself to his brother and sister, and he was winning here too.
Finally he looked at the vinyl sticker of a beautiful girl on the wall and knew that this was the perfect girl that he wanted to get some day. And he realized that he thought if he could get a girl like that, it would prove to everybody that he truly had value in the world. If he could score enough points on these walls, it would mean he was winning the game.
He loved for people to see how good he was on the outside, but now he realized that if anybody ever saw him on the inside, they would hate him.
He realized he hadn’t really loved his girlfriend, or anybody else for that matter. He didn’t really love his parents; he just tried to be better to them than his siblings were. He didn’t even love the poor, ugly, dumb kids at school. He just wanted to feel like he was nicer than everybody else. His memorized bible verses were just like merit badges instead of anything more than that.
All his good deeds were mere trophies for his gaudy, egotistical little control room.
Then a blinking LED in the corner of the room caught his eye. He went over to it and brushed off papers that were covering the long, narrow box that displayed messages in blinking LEDs scrolling across the screen.
He stopped and read the blaring red LEDs that he had ignored so long. He slowly put together the words as they scrolled across the screen. They said, “Surrender. . . the . . . game. . . to. . . me.”
Derrick furled his eyebrows in confusion. “What?” he said. “What does this mean?”
But the more he thought about it, the more he understood. As he thought about all the things that he had done in his life. . . all the really nice and great-seeming things, he realized he had done every single one of them because they would make HIM feel good and make HIM look better than everybody else. He had just been playing a big, selfish game against everyone else.
Then another message scrolled across the screen. . . it said,
“I. . . stand. . . at. . . the. . . door. . . and. . . knock. . . ”
It was one of his bible verses! He knew this one by heart, forward and backwards and he was proud that he knew it better than the other Sunday school students . . . but suddenly he got very scared of something. He realized that there was a door in the back of his little control room. He looked at it and froze.
He stared at the door as his heart pounded harder and harder, terrified that someone was waiting at his door.
And suddenly there WAS a knock. The bible verse all of a sudden took on an unpleasantly real meaning. It was no longer just words to be memorized in a big book. Someone had knocked on his door.
The knock came again.
Derrick realized that all the charts and trophies in this room proved that he was overwhelmingly selfish. He scrambled to cover up all of his score charts and the picture of the girl. He wouldn’t tear them down because of all the work he had done to fill the charts, but he definitely didn’t want anyone to see them.
When he felt everything was finally covered he slowly, carefully opened the door.
There was a simple, thin man on the other side and Derrick suddenly recognized him. He had met this man before the game had begun, before he had been put into this body. It was the creator and director of the whole game. He had a sad smile and kind eyes. he had thinning gray hair and was strong, but seemed very humble.
Derrick suddenly remembered that this man was the intended score keeper, but Derrick had appointed himself to keep his score instead.
Derrick trembled in fear, realizing very plainly that he had totally failed at the true game.
“May I come in?” The man said quietly.
Derrick looked at the floor and mumbled, “Yes. Come in.”
The man stepped inside and looked around at all of the papers taped over the charts and pictures. Derrick knew that this man knew exactly what all of it was.
Derrick pleaded, “I’m really sorry. Please give me another chance!”
The man wandered over to the wall and pulled down the stuff Derrick had put in front of the charts. He examined the charts and then looked back at Derrick. The man said, “Can I destroy all of this?”
“What? Why? but I’ve worked so hard! I have nothing else in my whole life to show for anything I’ve ever done if you take away that stuff!”
The man waited sadly.
Finally Derrick closed his eyes and said, “Yes! Take it all down! Do it quickly before I change my mind!”
The man tenderly pulled the charts off the wall but then vigorously ripped each of them up. He peeled the picture of the girl off the wall and rolled it into a sticky ball. Eventually the whole room was bare.
The man lifted the LED screen up and handed it to Derrick. Derrick took it, examined it and then realized the man was pointing at the place on the wall where the girl used to stick. Derrick slowly carried the screen over to the wall and hung it on a nail he found there. Then the man said, “May I drive?”
This was the hardest part of all. Derrick had never given up his seat to control the body. What if this guy didn’t do things the way Derrick wanted them to be done. What if this dude made him do something stupid in front of people.
But finally Derrick said, “Yes! please take it! I KNOW that you can drive better than me. I’ve messed it all up so far. Please take over. Tell me what I can do to help you drive this body.”
The man smiled, and hugged Derrick, who hugged him back like a child who knew his father had just spared him from a huge punishment. He realized that he had never known how lonely for this man he really was. He had tried to fill his room with trophies to keep him company instead of inviting a real person, Jesus into his control room with him. Jesus sat down at the stool and said, “Ok, now, my son, the first thing I want you to do, is to go apologize to your parents.”
“What!?” Derrick exclaimed. “But I’ve done nothing wrong!”
The man waited, looking patiently down at the control panel.
Derrick finally realized that the man was exactly right. He had not truly loved his parents, and they probably had been able to tell. Derrick took the levers and made the body get out out of bed. It was morning. He heard his mom calling to him downstairs. Derrick looked over at Jesus at the control panel and sighed. He looked at how clean his walls now looked. He looked at the shredded and crumpled charts in the trash. They seemed so juvenile, and having an actual person in this room with him showed how much he had been missing. It put the two ways of living in such harsh relief. Derrick said, “I think i can do this. I no longer want to play that stupid game. I just want you to stay here with me.”
And from then on, Derrick began to make decisions because the man in his control room told him to, not because he wanted to look good. Derrick thought less and less about how to make people think he was good, and more and more about how to simply make other people feel good. And just teaming up with this man who was quickly becoming his best friend, just seemed so much more meaningful than controlling machinery in an empty room.