Looking Towards the Future
In this week's portion, Joseph was able to see the future in Pharaoh's dream, and save the world from famine. While none of us may be able to do anything like that, we do have the ability to see the future. How? We can learn to 'look ahead' and see what's coming. There's nothing magic about it, we just have to develop the ability to pause, pay attention to our surroundings, consider our actions, and think about what is likely to result from what we do, or don't do.
'Looking ahead' is a great talent to develop and can do a lot to smooth out many of the bumps along the road of life.
In our story, a boy learns from his friend how to look ahead.
"ALL THE RIGHT MOVES"
Jeff couldn't help smiling as he picked up the shiny white chess piece and deftly slid it across the board. He had his friend, Steve, just where he wanted him.
"Checkmate!" he called out triumphantly.
"Wow, what a move," admitted Steve. "You're a tough guy to beat."
Jeff took a bite out of his jelly donut, as the colorful Chanukah candles burned brightly in the window across the room, and sighed. "Thanks. I just wish I could be as winning in other areas in my life as I am on the chessboard."
Steve looked up at him, concerned.
"Lately my life is a mess. I'm nearly failing English class. In fact, I have a term paper due tomorrow that I've barely started. My parents are really mad at me for always oversleeping. But is it my fault if I'm so tired in the morning, and I wake up with stomach aches?" Jeff asked aloud as he popped the last bite of his donut into his mouth. "Hey, let's play another round!"
Steve looked at his watch and frowned. It was getting late. He had plenty of time, but was concerned about Jeff's workload. "Are you sure you have time to play again?" he asked.
"Sure, why not?" smiled Jeff. "And can you pass me another one of those Chanukah donuts your mom made? They're great!"
Jeff made his opening move as he munched on his sixth donut, oblivious to the late hour. The guys began to get into the game, when Steve, who had been thinking about Jeff's problem, gave his friend one of those 'I got it' looks. "You know what, Jeff? I think I figured out your problem. You've just gotta start playing the game of life the same way you play chess."
Jeff made his next chess move and looked up. "What do you mean?"
"When you make any chess move, do you just move whatever piece you feel like?"
Jeff rolled his eyes. "That would be ridiculous! You know as well as I do that if I did that I'd never win a single game. I carefully plan every move. I first think about the moves you're probably going to make, and then what I'm going to do next. Sometimes I even look ahead, and practically play out in my mind the whole game in advance."
Steve studied the chessboard and saw he was in trouble already. "Well that explains why you almost always beat me. Anyway, what I mean to say is that we should try to look ahead and plan out our life moves just like we do our chess moves. For example, you just told me you have a term paper due tomorrow. How do you think staying here so late playing chess is going to affect that?"
Jeff moved his chess piece and smiled. "No big deal. I'll just stay up late, and do the paper when I get home."
Steve nodded. "Oh, I see. I believe you also mentioned how you can't seem to get up on time. Will staying up half the night, help or hurt that problem?"
Jeff squirmed. He was starting to get the idea and his friend had him on the run. "I guess it won't really help things, will it?" He glanced at the half-eaten donut in his hand and added sheepishly, " I guess eating a dozen jelly donuts is also a 'bad move' that won't do much to help my stomach aches either, huh?"
Steve smiled and shook his head. Jeff put down the donut and threw up his hands. "Checkmate, friend. You win this round! If you don't mind, I think we should quit the game for now. I've got a paper to write and need to get a decent night's sleep too. But could I maybe take just a donut or two to go? I'm going to need a lot of energy to become a champion in the chess game of life!"
Q. How did Jeff feel at first about staying out late to play chess with his friend?
A. He thought it was okay, and didn't affect his doing homework or getting up on time.
Q. How did Steve's idea make Jeff feel different?
A. He felt he needed to plan ahead, by going home early so he could do his homework and still wake up on time the next day.
Q. Do you think Steve's plan was a good one? Why or why not?
A. It was good because it teaches a person the how to look ahead, and see how the choices we are making right now are going to a have definite impact on our future. We can use this tool to plan out our life moves in a way that will make us most likely to come out as winners.
Q. Why do you think that Jeff could be so much better at planning his chess moves than his life moves?
A. When we are playing a game, it is relatively easy to be objective and make careful, well thought out decisions. But it's much harder to think this way in life, because our feelings and wants can get in the way and cloud our judgment. But with practice we can learn to look more objectively at our life and more consistently make the choices that will get us to where we want to go.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Does it take the mind of a chess champion to effectively look ahead, and plan our life-moves based on where they will lead us?
A. Though it would certainly be an advantage, it's not at all necessary. All we have to do, is take a step back every once in a while and ask ourselves,"What is the likely outcome of this action, and is this something that I want to happen?" If so, go for it. If not, think again.
Q. Is it possible to perfectly control our future by always making the right move?
A. Although by thinking deeply about the likely results of any choice we make and implementing the one that seems most logical will often bring the results we hope for, there are just too many variables for a human to always guess right. God designed the world with this uncertainty factor, to bring us to trust in Him and not grow too dependent on our own abilities.