Playing chess with Grandpa


By Jessica Tanner

Special to The PREVIEW

Between two players sits a chess set. A few of the pieces are scratched. Some are missing limbs or weapons. But they still look like the people of Rome they were modeled after. The players eye the black and white opposing Roman armies. The girl moves a white piece. Then her companion moves one of his black pieces and swipes up her white. “Your king is in check.”

The girl is me and my companion is my grandfather. Ever since I learned the basics of how to play chess in the third grade I’ve challenged him. I can count the number of games I’ve won against him on my hands. The total number of games we’ve played I could never count. Nearly every time my family went for a visit to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s home I’d drag the old game from its place on a closet shelf.

Grandpa never complained about playing. It was our time. He’d ask me if I was sure of a move and like the naïve person I was (and still am) I’d tell him I was. He’d scoop up another piece. Without trying, he’d have his moves planned in advance and see what was going on in the game. If I took a piece, he usually knew I’d go for it before I did.

My grandfather’s way with the chess board is like how God works with us. He allows us to make our own choices. Sometimes He asks us if we are sure about a decision, but He never forces us to follow a certain path. We can freely move in a million different ways. He never reprimands us for going in the wrong direction. Even if our king is in check and trouble is just around the bend.

“It was He who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice” — Sirach 15:14-15.