As a father of five restless kids, I’ve frequented the local Chuck E. Cheese or arcade more times than I can count.
And why not?
These noisy, hyper-stimulating environments are places where “a kid can be a kid” (…and a dad can waste some serious cash!).
Embarrassingly, the following sequence of events at a local arcade, have happened to this dad way more than once.
See if you can relate.
While my little daughter is holding my hand, I walk by the “Claw Machine” refusing to pay it any attention.
The abrupt tug of her hand tells me that she has stopped to take a look at something important.
I notice that my daughter’s head is directed toward and tilted up at the clear glass of that seductive machine.
The claw, that metal, grasping, artificial hand, dangles silently inside of the box-shaped game.
I know immediately what my daughter desires.
The owner of the arcade has placed the cutest, softest, snuggliest stuffed animals inside of this glass prison.
Intentionally, the adorable animals face out, toward my daughter and me, with wide, unblinking eyes begging for emancipation.
“Daddy! Please get me the pink one. Please! Please!”
Now I’m a dad. I’m no heartless miser, and my daughter knows that from the bottom of her little heart.
I just know that I can insert a few shiny tokens and take command and control of that motionless, metal claw.
Rescue the poor, fluffy cuddle-bear and deliver the prisoner into my daughter’s arms.
But first—I have to get that stuffed toy into the grip of that claw.
I slide the tokens through the skinny slot as I take a cleansing breath to ready myself.
Anxiety begins to rise as I remember that this is a timed mission.
If I can’t rescue that poor, kissable creature in 15 seconds, my daughter will suffer great loss.
Yes, my palms are sweaty. I wipe them on my pants for a better grip of the joystick.
I eyeball the fat, neon-pink bear like a cat eyeballing a mouse.
I position the claw.
My coordinates are not exactly on target.
But I still have three seconds.
I tap the joystick forward- and manipulate that claw, ensuring that it won’t miss its mark.
I take a rapid look at my daughter and note that she is smiling with unwavering confidence at her daring dad.
I glance one last time at that fuzzy bear.
And I hit the red button with the same conviction as a politician hitting his podium.
Down the claw descends.
I watch it in slow-motion as the metal tentacles wrap around my caressable fluff-toy’s head.
The vice-like grip of the claw wrenches my bear free, and begins to suspend her high in the air.
My daughter and I both hold our breath, our mouths open in joyful anticipation.
But then the impossible happens.
Right before the imprisoned creature is set free, she slips out of the claw’s grasp.
Our dear, puffy prize lands helplessly and hopelessly at the bottom of the box, and we can’t even hear the thud.
Yes, I pick up my daughter to comfort her.
I feel guilty because I really picked her up to comfort me.
Yes, I feel like a failure, a loser, and the worst dad EVER.
And yes, I put in two more quarters to try again.
Now why did I tell you that story?
Because God owns everything and has engineered our hearts to grip him alone for lasting satisfaction.
God has designed us in such a way that we cannot grasp wealth for our worth.
A poem from Psalm 24 begins “The earth and everything it contains are the LORD's. The world and all who live in it are his.”
Did you get that?
God, not you or me, owns everything.
This is more liberating than you might believe.
Since God owns everything, we are created to simply care for what He has created.
We were never meant to claw after created things as if we were owners.
Our hearts were never engineered to grab and own anything.
And here is the zinger. I recently found out that the Claw Machine game is rigged.
You probably knew that already.
I found out that the owner engineer’s the claw to grip loosely so that the prize cannot be captured on the first try.
Now the owner can program the claw to grip strongly, after say 15-20 attempts.
An occasional win (much like a casino’s slot machine) fuels the addictive allure of the game increasing the owner’s profit.
But even then, the player must perform perfectly with the joystick to line up his win.
And does the cheap toy really satisfy? No.
And don’t miss this. God has programmed our hearts in such a way that they simply cannot grab and grasp and own the stuff of this world.
God alone owns everything. We receive and care for His gifts with endless freedom.
Our hearts were formed by our Father to be filled with him alone.
Only His Son satisfies.
Only His Spirit brings lasting joy.
Would you join me in living as a caretaker of creation, rather than an owner?
Metro North Church