When I was six my brother and I were lucky enough to receive an original Nintendo game system for Christmas from our grandparents. If you weren’t a kid in the late 1980’s you may not understand the importance of such a gift, but for a six year old at that time owning a Nintendo was basically just short of the Real Presence of the Eucharist, so not God, but pretty close. Every Christmas after that we were each blessed with the gift of one extra game for our prized possession. One of our favorites was Punchout.
The point of the game was to take a small-statured boxer from humble beginnings to the champion of the world. One of the most difficult bouts was against an opponent named Great Tiger. He hailed from India and had a jewel in his hat that flashed before he would do his secret move, a tornado-like series of punches in which he would spin around throwing uppercuts. If you timed your punch right you could knock him out in one blow when he started this series so the temptation was to always go on the offensive when you saw that jewel start to sparkle.
The only problem was that if you missed your timing at all he would keep spinning and basically pound the snot out of you. There was, however, another route. If you stayed focused and crouched into a defensive stance you could more often than not weather the attack, but sometimes this meant you would run out of time before you knocked him out, meaning you would have to take your chances at a split decision, or judge’s ruling on who won the fight.
This memory was brought back to me earlier this week as I tried to make it through a patch of standard daily life temptation. It was surrounding an issue in which earlier in the day I had a clear understanding and plan in place should the temptation arise, but when the temptation came the waters were muddied a bit with all sorts of reasons to go another direction. I was frustrated because I thought I had the problem solved but the temptation wouldn’t subside. Then I remembered one of the spiritual rules we had learned while studying Ignatius of Loyola, something to the effect of “when the clarity of God is not with you make no decision.”
I had to laugh when I realized how much this was like my NES boxing career; you see, when things were going well in the game you could knock out that tiger every time, but if your timing was off that day you might as well turn over the controller to the next in line because you were as good as dead, that is, unless you hunkered down and tried for the split decision. In the spiritual life sometimes it is best to just throw up your defenses when temptation comes and ride it out instead of going for the glory. After all, God would never make you lose a split decision. Prayers Always, Fr. Joseph Altenhofen