Ready Player One: The Joy of the Search
I officially have to give credit to Loot Crate for this one. Back in February of 2015 Lootcrate had the seemingly ridiculous idea to include a book in their box of nerdy collectibles. I'm sure it was met globally with cries of, "What am I supposed to do with a book?" Well I did the only seemingly reasonable thing to do. I read it. It took me a couple times to get into it, but once I made it past chapter 9, I didn’t put it down. I literally stayed up the entire night and read until I finished the book. It was such an amazing and captivating story. I've since been planning to include Ready Player One in the last 2 Faith and Fandom books, but there just isn't enough room for all the things I want to include sometimes. But now, with the movie's release and the Funko pop Parzival staring me down from my action figure shelf, it's time for me to insert a coin on this chapter and finally do it.
In Ready Player One, the world of Oasis is this vast mmorpg (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) virtual reality existence that the entire world relies on and explores. People spend more time in the Oasis than out of the Oasis. They develop relationships, learn, solve conflicts, grow, and live all inside confines of this digital existence. They have all existed with this knowledge that there is more to the Oasis than meets the eye. There is a legend of an Easter Egg, the fabled hidden treasure. It’s the one thing that will give whoever finds it control over everything in the Oasis and provide the finder with all they will ever need monetarily.
Everyone has heard of the legend of Halliday and his Easter Egg, but not everyone really bought into it. Those who truly believed the quest was the truth and have devoted their time, energy, efforts and resources to finding the Egg are called "Gunters" (short for egg hunters). These Gunters go on about their day to day lives doing what they normally do, but in the back of their mind lies this belief and quest to find the truth. They search in game, study out of game, compare information with others, and make actual efforts to see what it is hidden. They believe that if they search hard enough, they will find answers.
I believe it is this way we as Christians have to approach scripture. We basically have to become spiritual Gunters. Most of this world has heard of the Bible. They have heard stories of people reading it, why they read it, and the effect it has had on their lives, but for them personally, they just see it as some vague irrelevant book that doesn't actually hold anything for their lives individually. The truth is that scripture holds so much power and strength for our life, but we have become like the people in Ready Player One that just accept scripture as a fairy tale, just like the Easter Egg.
In the book as well as the movie, Parzival states that though all the world knows about the egg, only the devoted few still seek it. In the book, the first challenge hasn't even been discovered yet, so the enthusiasm is even less than what we see in the movie. They know it's out there, but they just don't care to seek it. In the movie, the first challenge has been discovered, but it requires so much effort to advance in that most regular people have given up and abandoned the concept of advancing any further. This really does sound like how our culture has apathetically disregarded what God has given us. The Bible is so full of things that are mysteries of life, of God, of our salvation, and our future that are there for us. These life changing truths are hidden right in plain sight for us to find the answers. Like Ready Player One, it's not just one hidden thing waiting to be found. There are multiple mysteries that are waiting to be found and unlocked. I'm not talking crazy Bible codes or hidden messages, but simply the truths God intended us to find in His word that most of us simply overlook.
The concept of understanding the mysteries of God has been something heavily expressed in scripture. In the midst of Job's trials and suffering, Zophar responded with this statement:
“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea." - Job 11:7-9
Job's associate poses this question, but as we read through Job's story and on in to the new testament, we see that God wants the mysteries of our existence and relationship with Him to be revealed and found.
Paul describes how it's such a mystery that God chose to redeem us the way He did and that through Jesus death and resurrection, we would arrive at godliness and forgiveness.
"Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory." -1 Timothy 3:16.
It honestly doesn't sound like the most practical plan, but the more we study scripture and delve into the "Oasis" of God's Word, the more we understand the concept.
Paul also describes the mystery of how God's plan of redemption centered around one people group for many generations, yet at the designated time it became open and free to all.
"The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." - Colossians 1:26-27.
"In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." - Ephesians 3:4-6.
The timeline and the way God delivered His message of a messiah and redemption is something we have to actually delve into to see clearly. Most people think Jesus story just starts in Matthew, but He is written about in Isaiah, Daniel, and other books of the Old Testament. Without knowing the background of the foundation God laid out culturally, and all that He built in order to bring us all together, we only get a fraction of the picture. When we search deeper into the story, we have a clearer understanding and a bigger picture of how greatly God loves us. This is similar to the way the Gunters needed to delve into Halliday's past in order to be able to understand what lied ahead in their future. We need to see that it's one continual masterpiece of a plan, not just seemingly random events. Knowing the creator means searching the whole story, not just the parts we like or are familiar with.
There is the question of our bodies in light of eternity. What happens when we die? This is stuff we all think about, things we all have questions of, and that scripture teaches and begins to help us have an understanding of. "I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality." - 1 Corinthians 15:50-53.
Even with scripture, this stuff is still hard to understand and grasp fully, but scripture takes such an unfathomable concept, and throughout the Bible shows us little by little more of what we have so many questions about. There are so many truths, mysteries, questions, and teachings woven through scripture that we just don't get from random Vacation Bible Schools, the occasional Christmas and Easter service, or the 5 minutes you browse through a Bible in a random hotel room. The truth is in there if we actually make the effort to seek it out.
Halliday knew that he had created something great with the Oasis. He saw that what he built was going to last indefinitely and impact the world for the rest of existence. He decided to hide these keys and Easter Egg in the game to find someone who was worthy to be his successor. It was a test to those who were willing to study, fight, search, and better understand the man that Halliday was. It was a quest for this great man to give everything to one who proved worth, so he hid these mysteries all through his creation. I personally think it's a great idea for a creator to do something like that.
(side note: there is a hidden message scattered in this book that will give you the rights to Faith and Fandom, possession of our Facebook page, all the copies of all 5 books, and enough nerdy t-shirts to keep you clothed for the rest of your life...just kidding...or am I?)
While a creator making people jump through hoops to earn a prize is fine, I'm grateful that's not how God operates. Our creator isn't looking for a worthy successor. He is freely giving access to all his creation, treasure, and heart to any unworthy soul that would seek Him. While we may need to search scripture for greater truths and understanding, God didn't make the process intentionally difficult or overly challenging. For generations, He has gone above and beyond to make his mysteries clear. He sent angels, prophets, judges, apostles, disciples, the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit all to make sure we had access to Him. That in the thousands of years without printable books or social media God, preserved His Word and message that it could be given to His people so that they can actually find the truth. His mysteries were hidden, but not so that they couldn't be found, but so that they could be found at the right time.
There is value in the search and in the quest. When we care enough to seek things out on our own, it matters more to us. It's the reason Halliday made his quest so intensive. It's the same reason God calls out for us to find Him, to draw near to Him, rather than just forcing us to come. As Solomon stated in Proverbs 25:2, "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." We show what is of value to us in what we are willing to pursue.The Gunters knew that, and hopefully we will be able to see that as well.
Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the search for the wrong reasons. We as people don't always have pure motives. If we did, we probably wouldn't need Jesus. Sometimes people manipulate their own faith journey into something it shouldn't be. Sometimes people use the name of God for fame, manipulation, power, profit, or status. This isn't who we are meant to be. In ready player one, a main antagonist is the group called the "Sixers." The Sixers are the people working for IOI, Innovative Online Industries. They, like the Gunters, are searching for the Egg, but not out of admiration, adventure, or even personal desire. They are in it for the money. They see the Egg as a means to profit. They find the egg, sellout to IOI, and cash in big. They also go way too far in the quest. They embody sabotage, murder, bribery, and general jerkiness all around. They are willing to manipulate people's lives to get whatever they want. There are far too many people of faith using God's Word the way the Sixers use Oasis.
"For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain." - Titus 1:10-11.
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." - 2 Peter 2:1-3.
"It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.” - Philippians 1:15-17.
I bring this up for 2 reasons. The first is to watch out for spiritual Sixers. Watch out for the people leading, teaching, preaching, or walking for the wrong motives. Even if the message they preach is true, they aren't leading anywhere you should follow.
The second is don't be a spiritual Sixer. Check yourself. Check your heart, motives, and actions. We know that the thing God wants most from us is our love and our heart. If we let the practice of our faith get in the way of our actual relationship with God, we are tainting the very grace we are given.
God is worth the pursuit. Sometimes you may seem like the only one around you that is pursuing Him, but don't give up. Don't let His Word just be something in the background of your life. Let knowing God better be your quest. Don't allow yourself to become corrupted, selfish, vindictive, or bitter along your journey. Like Parzival, surround yourself with people that will encourage you and walk with you on your journey, and don't stop searching until you find your prize. I can promise you this: truly finding your relationship with God will be a much greater and fulfilling adventure than conquering the Oasis, and that's saying something. Ready Player One?