Back to the Playground – Theology Essay
I’m spending a lot more time at playgrounds lately. My grandchildren are coniseurs of playgrounds. When they come to visit, I usually ask them what they want to do. Invariably, they excitedly sing out, “Let’s go to the park!” Park to them means a playground. They can’t conceive of a park without a playground. I’ve learned some valuable lessons at the playground.
On our last trip to a playground, two of my grandchildren came along. They had just put clean clothes on and it had rained during the night. So I was a little apprehensive about the puddles of water on the playground. It wasn’t long before I spotted Kaitlyn on the playground digging through the rocks and mud. Just before I was about to scold her for getting her clothes dirty, she came running toward me with an outstretched arm and a smile on her face. When she got to me she handed me a little heart-shaped rock and said, “Here PaPa! Here is a heart for you – just because I love you! Keep it!” With tears in my eyes, I thanked her.
Did I scold her for getting her clothes muddy? What do you think? No way! And, yes, I still have that little heart-shaped rock given to me by my four-year-old granddaughter. It is one of the best gifts that I have ever received. I realized that many times we miss out on so much when we sweat the small stuff.
We need to spend a lot more time at the playground. Jesus said, “Except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4).
What are some things we can learn on the playground to help us live simple, stress free lives?
First – SIMPLICITY enables us to relax and have peace. Jesus revealed that those who live in humility as a little child are the greatest in the kingdom of God. Children enjoy the simple things in life. We often take things too seriously. Prolonged seriousness will kill. It will kill your joy and, worse, it will kill your child-likeness.
As adults, we tend to make things too complicated. When David was a shepherd boy, he dared to believe with childlike faith that God would deliver the giant Goliath into his hands. He spurned all of the body armor and weapons that King Saul gave him. Instead, he met the giant on the battlefield with his simple sling and five smooth stones. He figured it was simple – the giant was so big he couldn’t miss! Who won? That’s simple – God plus one is always the majority. (See I Samuel 17.)
Second – SING. Sing a silly song sometimes. Children love to sing. The Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine” (Proverbs 17:2). (See Proverbs 15:13 and Ephesians 5:18-19.) Have you lost your song? Ask God to give you a new song to sing. (See Psalm 98:1.)
Third – STAY LOOSE. Children are not normally uptight and worried about life. Ask yourself, “Will this matter a year from now?” I picked up a great little book the other day that had an intriguing title – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson PhD. It is Dr Carlson’s premise that whenever we’re dealing with bad news or troublesome situations, most of us get into certain habits, ways of reacting to life that don’t serve us very well. We overreact, tend to blow things out of proportion, hold on too tightly, and focus on the negative. We live our life as if it was one huge emergency! Stay loose – don’t sweat the small stuff. (See Matthew 6:25-34.)
Fourth – SHARE. Children usually love to share. Giving is fun and it doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Have you ever seen the delight of two children sharing an ice cream cone or simply jumping through mud puddles or dancing in the rain? I saw a wonderful bumper sticker not too long ago. It said, “Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty”. Practicing random or spontaneous acts of kindness is an effective way to get in touch with the joy of giving without expecting anything in return. It’s even more rewarding when you don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Remember that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. Also, why not take time each day and think of someone to thank?
Fifth – SPRITIUAL VITALITY brings everlasting and abundant life. Children are naturally attuned to the spiritual. Only as people grow older do they become hardened and insensitive to the spiritual. That’s why we need to go back to the playground and become as little children. Jesus warns us, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3 NLT). Perhaps you need to sing that old children’s song again, “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves. Yes, Jesus loves me.”
Do you need to go back to the playground of childlike simplicity and humility? In childlike faith ask Jesus Christ to come into your life. “For as many as received Him gave He power to become children of God even those who believed on His name” (John 1:12).