One of my very first game consoles was the Super Nintendo. And the first game that I played on it was Super Mario World. I loved that game so much that I played it night and day. I would sneak and play it instead of doing my homework. Years later, I still have that console and the Super Mario World game in a closet at my mom's house. I still play it whenever I go back home and, not to brag, but I am pretty much as boss as you can get in SMW. I’ve played and advanced through every level, collected all of the Yoshi coins, unlocked the Star World AND the Special World, and advanced through those as well. Boss!
On a recent trip home, while laying in bed, Super Mario popped in my mind. I thought about getting up to play when a revelation hit me. Now, I am not someone who is overly deep and tries to find some profound meaning in every little thing, but as I reflected on that video game, I could not help but notice how it mirrors our walk in life, particularly our spiritual walk.
The game begins with a charge! Mario is sent on a mission to rescue Peach, a golden haired, rosy faced princess with whom Mario is smitten. She has been captured by the antagonist of the game, Bowser aka King of the Koopa. He is a formidable foe as he is significantly larger than Mario and has supernatural powers. Now, while I personally am not on a mission to save a princess, I am a vessel being used by the Lord to seek and save those who are lost, and to serve and assist the less fortunate. In this walk I face many enemies: the negative voices of others as well as my own, the enemy of doubt and, of course, the devil himself. Mario has to face greater enemies at each new level of the game and they only grow fiercer as he gets close to his archenemy Bowser.
Along the way, Mario is equipped with friends/helpers and superpowers. He has friends like Yoshi who can eat or stomp out many of Mario’s enemies with ease. The chief helper is Luigi, who can be used in the two player version and steps in when Mario has lost his lives. What is great about this relationship between Mario and Luigi is - so that game-play continues for both characters - either can transfer lives to the other whenever the other has run out (a result of either player dying in the game). As far as weapons, Mario has available firepower, a cape feather for flying (my personal favorite), an invincibility mushroom and the classic big mushroom for growth and strength. There are many more weapons, but these are the most notable. I know Super Mario is far more advanced now and there’s a plethora of power-ups available but, for the sake of simplicity in this metaphorical piece, I am sticking to Super Mario World circa early 1990’s.
Along his journey, Mario travels through multiple tunnels and explores land, sea, and caves. Wherever he ventures, there is danger present, not unlike life in our world today where there are threats everywhere to our safety and security. Not ironically, the safest place for Mario to be is "up high." He is safest in Lakitu’s cloud or when he goes to the bonus area, adequately named Coin Heaven. In Coin Heaven there are no enemies and you can collect an insane amount of gold coins, which are good for extra lives after you accrue 100 coins. But there is one catch. You can’t stay in Coin Heaven forever or you will hear the classic "Time Running Out" music and lose a life, if you don’t finish the level in time. At some point, you have to come back down and continue on your mission. And aren't we all spiritually (and otherwise) better off when we focus our thoughts on-high where our power and source reside? Aren't we ultimately meant to continue our mission, a journey to fulfill our life's purpose in doing God's will? Depending on what power you possess in the game and how you use it, you can take out numerous enemies at once, and usually with ease. (This also applies in life!) Without supernatural power, you are really relying solely on Mario’s limited skill (and in life, on your own), and you will undoubtedly run into a brick wall (literally) at some point that you can’t get past without supernatural ability. The super powers of Mario are super indeed. And the power of God? Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient: He is the ultimate power. But, back to Super Mario and my analogy.
The powers you gain are only intended to defeat your enemies. If you try to shoot fire at Yoshi, for example, he won’t die. Although, occasionally, due to errors on the gamer’s end, you can lose Yoshi momentarily, due to a run-in with an enemy. But a few steps later, he reappears, hatching out of an egg to come to your rescue. Once you have mastered six worlds in the game, you will find yourself in World 7 (the number of completion), in the Valley of Bowser and, ultimately, in Bowser’s castle at the end of the game. This is the mother of all levels. Nearly every enemy from the previous levels appear in the final showdown. The skill that you worked so hard to sharpen is tested in these final, sweaty palmed moments. In the first showdown with Bowser, it almost seems that it will be an easy defeat. After two hits on top of his head, while floating above Mario in a flying balloon-contraption with a smiling face plastered on it, the balloon fades into the background. But he reappears quickly, moving faster and also adding big, grey, glass balls to the mix, which he attempts to drop on top of Mario. With a few more hits on his head, he disappears again, but the battle still isn’t over. In the final round, the floating balloon has a changed countenance. It’s more sinister, frowning with angry eyes. Also, Bowser has ditched the propeller and opts to battle on the ground by aggressively bouncing his balloon around Mario attempting to kill him. Make no mistake, Bowser’s aim is to steal, kill and destroy. It takes a few more hits and some clever dodging but, once complete, Princess is released from his flying vessel and Bowser spins off into oblivion. I love the original Mario as well as the new Super Mario for Wii, because both depict Bowser being thrown into a lake of fire as a part of his defeat. How fitting.
In my own life, I have enemies and THE Enemy. But I also have a Paraclete. THE Helper, Jesus, who gave His life so that I may have an abundant life; life full of supernatural power and anointing. And I have access to this power as often as I desire it. I have access to the Heavenlies, as often as I want where there is provision and abundance and safety. But I know I can’t live there yet because I have a charge to keep right now, a purpose, a destiny. And my charge isn’t about ME, but about those to who I am called. And with that charge comes trials and tribulations, but the best part is that I don’t have to face them alone. I don't have to fight alone and I’m not left unequipped. There are many levels in life, and with each level comes a new devil. The previous levels were merely preparation for the level I currently occupy and because I am familiar with the tricks of the enemy, I am coming in with an advantage. Sure, I've made mistakes. I’ve missed the mark many times, and some misses have cost me dearly. But, believe me, there is nothing I have lost that truly mattered that has not come back around to me, like Yoshi.
Mario’s reward was great. It was the object of his affection, the Princess. My reward is even greater, the deepest desire of my heart: The Prince. He has already played the game and won. For me, it's like playing Super Mario, with a full walkthrough, unlimited lives, and every cheat you can imagine. I’m set up for victory!