I remember the day Lela Serapin spit in my face on the playground. We were standing near the metal dome-shaped soccer ball climby-thing. I remember standing there stunned wondering what in the world I had done to receive such treatment and why in the world she was so angry? I think we were talking about our backgrounds…and I shared a bit about my families’ faith…I might have uttered the name of Jesus. What I quickly discovered was her background and the offense she took of his claim to be more than a man. Whatever the words spoken that day…she was cut deep and I was devastated. Not only because my face was covered in humiliation and saliva…but also because I never intended her harm.
The playground of life is full of whimsy…squeals of delight, belly laughs and tender moments where we hand in hand run from activity to activity…seeking pleasure and connection along the way. There are monkey bars where the blood rushes to our head and we penny drop down landing proud and bit light-headed. Boys are chasing girls and strategies are planned and plotted. There is jump ropes and hop-scotch and swings that make us feel like we can touch the sun. The highs felt in these moments are second to none.
Until your friend falls from the top of the splintered bridge of the jungle gym and fractures her wrist. Until Andrew Frank collapses after chasing the girls from an asthma attack and is gasping for air on the grass. When the overweight child is picked last for the kickball team. Or he is called Crusher because he is so big and cannot fit in to a child-sized desk. When a bee stings an allergic child and she goes in to anaphylactic shock. When Lela who has played Cabbage Patch dolls at your house and shared multiple popsicles–spits in your face. The whimsical moments of childhood innocence end. And there is an unsettled sense that everything is not okay.
From childhood we sense it…even in our safest most magical moments there is a sense of darkness that is near. For some children it started early, their homes were not safe and their innocent lives were interrupted by darkness before they knew Light. For many it was a gradual sense and it has grown in to adulthood where we still run around the playground of life. We do our best to find whimsy, laughter, and tender connection. We fight for the highs where our tummy drops as gravity pulls us back toward the earth.
We are quickly pulled to earth when we receive a devastating diagnosis. When we lose someone we love tragically to death or divorce. When our parent or child struggles with addiction. When there is a car accident, or a shooting, and then another shooting. We look down at our friend on the ground gasping for breath…we wipe the saliva from our face…and we recognize something is not right–and we wonder if there has to be more? If this simply is not the full picture…if this is not actually the life to the fullest we thought it would be. We wonder if there is more to this life than living and dying? We wonder if this side of heaven is only the prelude?
Linking the events of my life together I have so many magical playground moments to point me to the belief that there is an Author of a story that brings together laughter and friendship, connection and love. But I also see a more sinister side to this world that has absolutely no law and suffering is not a respecter of persons. The poor decisions of others have devastating effects on innocent bystanders. There is even a brokenness to our planet where mosquitos bring malaria and people die. This may beg the question: Why would the Author create only to destroy? Or allow His creation to suffer?
In my younger years I grew exhausted from the adults speaking of heaven–I found it boring imagining angels lying around on clouds playing harps all day. I now find myself stumbling through my faith journey needing there to be more. Needing this to not be it. Because this world holds too much pain and heart-ache and anger to fit into my brain as the ending point. My desire is not to live for heaven…sitting by idly counting the days until glory. (You.have.got.to.be.kidding.me.) But I desire to do my best to bring a little bit of heaven to the fractured playground. To bring assurance and and support to those laying flat on their backs staring at the sun wondering if this is their last painful breath. I don’t get to change my circumstances or my personal suffering…but I do get to choose how I respond to the brokenness that happens on the playground. I choose to believe there is more and live with hope despite the devastation. I remember the trouble-makers on the playground, their negativity and their drama. I remember gravitating toward the friends who created adventure each and every time our feet hit the asphalt. The brave ones who were plotting playground plans before we were actually out the door. I want to be the one who brings joy and hope to the adventure…who doesn’t pretend there is no harm or danger–but enters in, loves well, and gets dirty along the way.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,