In this final Portal post we’ll look more at how test chambers are like life and also the truth behind the cake and grief counseling.
Testing is hard. This is something that you as the player and Chell as the character come to learn through the course of Portal’s narrative. Because of such a rigorous exercise, GLaDOS promises Chell cake and grief counseling at the conclusion of the test. (The need for grief counseling should be a strong indicator of the brutality of the tests.) This game was successful because we can resonate with the testing, the desire for cake, and the need for grief counseling. So what do these things mean for us?
“The Enrichment Center promises to always provide a safe testing environment.”
We’ve already compared other aspects of Portal to real life, but perhaps the most obvious is that life itself is like a test. We move from one chamber to the next experiencing increasingly difficult situations and acquiring new skills. We are presented with challenges and obstacles on a daily basis. These can be all sorts of things- car breaks down, lose a job, lose a significant relationship, death of a loved one, severe illness of yourself or someone else, or maybe just a bad day where too many people cut you off in traffic. We are confronted with tests daily, but James 1:2-4 says that these can be redeemed for our good- “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Enduring tests produces better people. We learn our weaknesses and strengths. We learn to be resilient. We even learn new skills that we would not have known had it not been for the times when something went wrong. Valve used this in their approach to the gameplay in Portal. They presented test chambers in a manner and sequence that would gradually allow players to learn all the necessary dynamics for navigating the chambers later in the game. Likewise, our tests in life can give us deeper character, added strength, and new skills. But there’s more! We struggle through this life and grow until finally we die….
“….and then there will be cake.”
The strength of character and new skills are rewards in themselves. Through enduring trials we learn to rely more on God than on ourselves. But what’s the reward when this life is over? Chell’s promises of cake were hollow, but we have hope for real cake. God has promised an eternal reward and God’s cake is NOT a lie. Chell learned that you do not get cake at the end of testing, but do you know where can get cake? Wedding receptions.
A wedding reception isn’t a wedding reception without a giant delicious cake. The good news of the gospel (among other things) is that our heavenly reward includes a wedding feast with what can only be the best possible cake ever made. Revelation 19 talks of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. This is a real event at the end of time in which God’s people will be united with Jesus, much like a wedding ceremony. Of course God’s ultimate wedding will be followed by the most unimaginable party. It will have the best food, drink, music, and of course, cake. While we’re on the subject of the end times and Revelation, let’s talk about….
Like Chell, we’re going to need some help when we have finally survived this horrible test of life. God knows and feels the suffering of his people. Just as a loving father comforts his children, so will God provide us with comfort when we are finally done with this life and are able to live with him. Revelation 21 says that God will take away all crying, mourning, pain, and death and he will personally wipe every tear from our eyes. THAT is the best possible grief counseling anyone can ever receive.
1. What tests and trials have you experienced recently?
2. How have you seen your past struggles change your character and help you grow or learn?
Next time we’ll start looking at Portal 2 as we reacquaint ourselves with GLaDOS and meet some new characters. We’ll be looking at the effects of power and overwhelming need to test.