Was that the 10th step or the 11th? Perhaps you have had similar thoughts while negotiating stairs in the dark. Was that the last step or is there one more? Guess wrong or misremember and you’re reaching for a phantom top step (with that brief frightful feeling of stepping through nothingness) or confidently hurting your foot on the floor.
Games Done Quick (GDQ) always teaches me something about gaming and the speed-running community as a whole. I typically lean into Legend of Zelda speedruns, retro games, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater runs, but 2021’s Summer GDQ completely blew my mind in a new way when I saw speedrunner Bubzia collect 70 stars in Super Mario 64 (SM64) blindfolded. Yes, blindfolded! Relying on musical and atmospheric cues in the game only, Bubzia deftly made his way through collecting 70 stars. He clocked in at just under 1 hour 50 minutes. (Watch it here) Watching him pull off frame-perfect maneuvers that would be difficult WITH sight and navigating portions of levels where the viewers can’t see anything on the screen, my jaw was firmly glued to the floor.
This struck a chord while also humbling me. I was reminded of Galatians 5:25, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” and John 7:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (ESV) We have all experienced spiritual blindness or have turned our eyes from Christ, but we know that as we keep in step with the Spirit, and we listen to the cues of the Spirit, we learn to hear and obey. We learn to comfortably – maybe not comfortably so much as willingly? – walk through the unknowns of life by nothing more than the voice of our Savior and the step of the Spirit.
Games are often created with intentional patterns, button combinations, and clues for us to find as we make our way from one objective to the next. Living life as a Christian functions much in the same way. We know that God has orchestrated all things and has given us a point of guidance to navigate with: the Bible. The same dedication Bubzia has taken to learn to collect 70 stars (and now all 120 stars) we can apply to our walk in faith. It requires intentional practice, study, picking up on cues, and obeying God’s voice.
It feels like a storied adage in my schema, but I recall several pastors commenting on our lack of ability to know the Good Shepherd’s voice if we don’t learn to hear it. Learning that voice comes with studying His Word, practicing His teachings, and acting on all of that. We are never promised perfection, but we have a perfect Leader. And like the growth Bubzia has experienced (some maneuvers he performs only work 10% of the time) we continue to grow by living every day working on listening for God’s voice.
As classic and ground-breaking as Super Mario 64 is, I was overwhelmed watching someone tackle that game with such dedication while blindfolded. It forced me to see SM64 in a new light. In the same way, those of us who have been long-time believers are still blown away by the goodness of God and His unrelenting love for us. We are constantly refreshed as our relationship with Him deepens. Though we may enter life with a spiritual blindfold, we walk by faith, not by sight.