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Our escape room

A humble use of talents, without envy of others, will help us find our way

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Our female guide escorted us to the escape room where we would be left to our own devices for an hour—unless, of course, we found our way out sooner, or cried uncle and asked to be released.

The goal was to locate where the foreign mole hid the jewels. The ground rules were not to mess with wires or cameras, because those were real, and to do nothing that required brute force. Once you use a clue, it won’t help you again. Hints will occasionally flash on the wall screen. I’ll be watching you. Good luck.

Wish I could say that being in a blizzard of stimulation, some of it actual evidence and some of it red herrings, reminded me of how current national events look to me—the cynical Cloward-Piven strategy of overwhelming the system to make it crash and then seize control. But the truth is, my crisis was as selfish as it was shameful: I was trapped in an IQ test. Again.

Some, like my husband, make wood and nails obey commands; C.S. Lewis lamented that he could not.

In any adult game that is not of the sheer luck variety, there are always at least two things going on. There is the game itself. And then there is the inner world of the players. The rest of my team was happily solving puzzles, typing numbers onto pin pads, and laying transparencies over maps. I, after the initial contribution of finding a small key in a potted plant, receded into the corner, paralyzed.

In first grade I was the only one who couldn’t figure out my school trip bus instructions. Later, when playmates discovered pig Latin was fun, I never caught on. The arrival of computers in the ’80s was another severe winnowing: so I’m not techie either.

In the film The Paper Chase (1973) it was the minor character Kevin Brooks who riveted me, the guy who didn’t survive freshman year because it turns out a photographic memory is not good enough to make it at Harvard. In Amadeus (1984) I related not to the protagonist Mozart but to the mediocrity of Salieri.

Here is the thing, though: Finding out that you’re not the cream rising to the top is only traumatic if you thought you should be. And who are you to think you should be? A friend once told me, “Your problem is not that you think you’re not as good as other people; your problem is you want to be better than other people.” Ouch.

A Christian preacher shared that in his early years he would make a point of dropping at least one big word in every sermon. One day he was at a faculty meeting of learned professors where the word “unconscionable” was dropped, and the president of the seminary didn’t know what the word meant, so he asked. After the group adjourned, the young preacher approached him privately and said, “How did you admit you didn’t know that word?”

The seasoned professor replied that long ago he had done his Ph.D. on the Transfiguration, and that by the time he was finished, he supposed he knew as much about the Transfiguration as any man alive—and he realized that compared to what there is to know he knew nothing at all. He was never again overly impressed with human knowledge.

The Spirit “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). Some are techie, some are not. Some, like my husband, make wood and nails obey commands; C.S. Lewis lamented that he could not (Surprised by Joy). We’re not responsible for what we’re born with but only how we use it. Let him who has five talents go invest it. Let him who has the one be careful not to bury it (Matthew 25:14-30).

Like A-team British WWII cryptologists, my escape room companions cracked code after code, breaking into the second room, then the third, and spanking the game with 18 minutes to spare.

My takeaway was a salubrious rebuke: “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Knowing that is key to our escape room.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine. Her columns have been compiled into three books including Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me. Andrée resides near Philadelphia.


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