When I was a kid, I loved to play Monopoly (okay, I still do). I was always up for a game, just to feel the crinkle of fresh Monopoly currency between my fingers. I loved to watch my cold, metal token (usually the car)make its way around the board as I held my breath in hopes of avoiding high value properties owned by other business moguls. Even though it wasn’t in the official rules, I always tried to get people to play where you put money in the middle that was awarded to the person who landed on free parking (did anyone else play that way?).

You might say I was somewhat of a Monopoly savant. Not to brag, but I went on a winning streak that spanned several years. I was unmerciful. If you don’t have the money to pay your bills, you better start selling something chump. I don’t care if your kids are starving. Either pay up or you’re out. Mercy is for the weak (didn’t Mr. Miyagi say that?), at least when it comes to Monopoly.

My secret to winning the game was to always buy Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue. It was a super cheap monopoly. You can put houses or hotels on these properties for a mere $50 a piece. While everyone else was “oohing and ahhing” over the ritzier properties like Boardwalk or Marvin Garderns to just leave them without buildings for several trips around the board, I was busy buying the cheap properties and throwing up hotels in just a few turns. Everyone lands on these little gold mines right as they pass go. I have bankrupt hundreds of people in my day with that simple strategy.

The only thing I hated about Monopoly was seeing the game end. I know that must sound baffling, because Monopoly is the longest game in the world, but when you are cleaning everyone else out, you like to relish in that for as long as possible. It was a taste of the good life for a few hours, but then the money went back in its tray, the houses went back in their bags, the board was folded up, and everything was put back in the box. My day in the sun ended just as quickly as it had started.

Just like the ancient Italian proverb says, “Pawn and king alike, they all go back in the bag.” All the pieces of any game go back in the box when the game is finished. The winner and loser are back on equal footing because the game is over.  The box is the great equalizer. Your King may have won the match, you might have all your opponents’ checkers, or you might have bought every piece of property on the Monopoly board, but eventually it all has to go back in the box and that is that.

So what does that have to do with marriage? Actually, quite a lot. When you are playing a game, you focus on the game. You don’t concern yourself with the fact that eventually the game will be over. You play in the moment. Isn’t that what we do with life as well? We are concerned with buying properties and hotels, but there are plenty of other things that distract us and vie for our time. There is money to be made, oil to be changed, yards to be mowed, diapers to be changed, dinner to be cooked, and on it goes. Life moves along at a break neck speed, but it won’t go on forever. Just like Monopoly, one day it will all be over. One day, you will either sit across from your spouse as they take their last breath, or they will watch you take yours. Then one of you will be put in a box, a nice box, fairly ornate and about 7 foot long. Hip, hip, hurray!

I know that sounds a bit “glass half empty”, but sometimes we need to remember that life doesn’t last forever. In fact, it goes by in a blink. We read in the book of James that life is simply a vapor. When we realize this, it is hard not to straighten out our priorities. What matters most? Who matters most?

So often, we see couples squandering what little time they have. It could be working so many hours that they barely get to see their family. It could be arguing over things that make no difference in the grand scheme of things. It might be living separate lives. Sometimes it is harboring bitterness and unforgiveness for things that happened long ago.  There are many ways to waste what little playing time is actually available.

Are we playing with the end in mind, or are we caught up in the moment focusing on things that don’t matter. Are we being present in our marriages, or are too focused on other less important areas of our lives? When everything goes back in the box what will matter? Is the argument so important that you have to win it? Is the money so valuable that you have to put it before your spouse? Is that bitterness worth holding on to? Are your hobbies more important than your family?

One day it will all be over. Let’s use our time wisely. Let’s finish the game with no regrets.

Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16

Walk good. Live wise. Be blessed.
Josh