Kris and I and our kids and their spouses have been fans of John Ortberg for a long time, and that is why I just had to find a way to read When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box. I want to begin by quoting one of his many stories that says “this is John Ortberg” the tallest potato in a five-potato family.
John tells the story of his kids growing up and one-by-one leaving the home. First Laura and then Mallory and soon Johnny. After Mallory left, Nancy (John’s wife), went to the grocery store…
She picked up three potatoes in the produce section, and the thought hit her, We used to be a five-potato family. Then Laura went away to school, and we only needed four. Now Mallory has gone, and we’re down to three. Soon it will be Johnny’s turn, and then we will be back to the two potatoes who started the whole thing. Nancy, who is usually more of a thinker than a feeler, just stood there in the grocery store with three potatoes in her hand and cried.
Then she got a pack of chocolate Ho Hos and ate them and felt much better.
That is John Ortberg. It’s how he writes, how he tells stories, and somehow all of a sudden you realize again the point of the book (with some fun tossed in): When the game of life is over it all goes back in the box. (This line is from the first chapter, which begins with a marvelous tale about his grandmother and life’s great lesson that he learned from her when he beat her at monopoly — and she then taught him that when you win it still all goes back in the box.)
Some of you have read Ortberg. Which of his books is your favorite and why? What do you get out of him the most?
The theme of this book is that we need to be rich toward God, give ourselves to God, live for God, and live a life of loving God and loving others. John characteristically combines focus on a theme, wit, stories, biblical study, and all of this dipped into his capacity to draw upon social studies.
The image of a game runs through the book, but that image is only the lane we walk. Adventure after adventure allow us to leave the lane for insights and wisdom in a number of themes that lead us to focus on living our lives before God. We can’t beat the house; we all die; we will eventually face God. The mortality of life, to imitate something said by Samuel Johnson, tends to focus our attention. I won’t summarize or capture the theme of every chapter — there are twenty one of them — but being rich toward God is a wise way to structure our life.