Bingo and Life: Games of Chance?

Bingo and Life: Games of Chance? March 25, 2023

“Classic BINGO game,” 10 January 2012, Edwin Torres, Creative Commons

Bingo is a game of chance. How about life? This post is about how the game of life requires conscious control and the utmost care. One cannot leave one’s interactions with others to chance.

I will not wade too deep into the murky waters of fate and freedom. What I will say is that I invest a great deal of thought looking for signs of conscious control in my son Christopher’s life. Unlike bingo, I won’t leave anything to chance in my work of advocating for my son, who suffers from TBI. After all, he is my son. I need to stay alert and do anything possible for his care and in hope his brain will heal.

There were many challenges the past few weeks in caring for Christopher. I won’t go into detail. But amid the anxieties and confusion, I took comfort from a text thread with my wife and daughter. Mariko wrote to Julianne and me that the nurse overseeing Christopher’s care on Tuesday shared that “he went to ‘bingo’ and people talked to him and he was smiling and looking around. He was on the chair for a couple of hours. She said he seems happy when he’s out of the room.” The text went on to note that one of the medications Christopher had been on since early 2021 (soon after the brain injury), which was intended to reduce erratic fever activity, came to an end.

In addition to my wife’s report from the nurse, the news about the medication was also encouraging. Not leaving anything to chance, I reached out to our medical consultant, Dr. Robert Potter, for his expert opinion on the import of terminating the prescribed medication with no resulting aftermath. He agreed that it was a sign of some healing in the brain (perhaps in the autonomic nervous system).

The text thread with my wife concluded with her writing that Christopher “was awake when I walked in, but now his eyes are closed.” Those words comforted my troubled soul. I thanked my wife and asked her to thank the nurse for her words and care for our son. She added that the nurse “is a compassionate soul.” It was as if God prescribed just the right medication to calm my nerves and troubled mind.

We are always looking for signs of conscious control in Christopher’s daily existence. I also look for signs of conscious, caring control on the divine and human level. The nurse in question, as well as an RT on the floor, went out of the way to encourage us with news that Christopher was in good spirits in the presence of others. According to the RT, our son is slowly on his way to recovery. They were very alert and conscious of the power of their words and the difference they can make for good in their residents’ and family advocates’ lives. They have much to teach us.

Please don’t ask me to what degree God is in control of various life circumstances. But I do believe God is providentially and compassionately involved, consciously orchestrating life to bring good out of evil. Even when Christopher’s eyes are closed, God is at work. I believe God is at work deep within my son’s being, slowly healing him in various ways. The longstanding medication coming to an end, Christopher’s smiles in response to others talking to him, an awareness of his surroundings, the occasional statement or question coming from his lips, are not matters of blind chance. There is some measure of healing going on.

I will be looking for other signs of conscious control when I visit Christopher today. I will be looking for conscious control on the part of staff, and in myself. Alert, skillful, and empathic care goes a long way for all of us. We need to make sure we don’t engage one another randomly, erratically, with feverish activity or callous indifference. Whether you and I play bingo, may we leave none of our interaction with others to chance. Like that nurse and RT, we need to be intentional in making a healing difference today in people’s lives.

I shared this post with Dr. Potter before publishing it. He weighed in on the bingo metaphor. It was almost as if his reflection on the game of Bingo was that of an expert analysis:

Although Bingo is a game of chance, one has to be constantly alert, listening for the clues, attending to the board before you, measuring all the factors that together contribute to your response to whatever is happening. Did I hear the call correctly? Do I act now to put down a button on my board? Is there a match between what I want and what I get? Is there a straight line that allows me to reach a conclusion of a “bingo” that satisfies my life experience? I will reach victory in life only if I respond completely to the chances I am given!

Just think. If a game of chance like Bingo requires such constant alertness, what is required of us more generally in the game of life?

In a day when there is so much toxic speech and poisonous, out-of-control discord, such conscious, centering care might even lead to surprised looks of pleasure and smiling faces. When we engage in healing ways in our daily routine, we’ve scored a victory in life. That’s right—“Bingo!”


To read the various posts on the journey with my son Christopher and TBI dating back to early January 2021, please refer here. I want to thank all those interested in our story for their compassionate care and prayers.

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and Author and Editor of numerous works, including More Than Things: A Personalist Ethics for a Throwaway Culture (IVP Academic, 2023). You can read more about the author here.
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