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Series Interruption for the Playground



Photo Credit: Brad Washburn

Photo Credit: Brad Washburn

n the last article we took a short side-step from our Mr. Manners series to talk about one of the greatest potential God-centered holidays, Halloween.  So for this article we were planning to get back on track and talk about Social Media Manners for your kids.  It’s a great topic and we’ll definitely feature it.

Unfortunately though, while I have been compiling wisdom and manners on social media, I have been experiencing the election process here in the U.S.  I’ve had some first-hand witnessing to a lot of bad social media behavior, especially on Facebook.  So my list for social media manners has a lot of “don’t.”  Before I flooded you with “don’ts” I need to take an entire post and set the stage for the idea of a border marking off a really safe and fun area.  Sure, there are don’ts in life, but there is also a free and fun area that they boundary.  So, I think it’s time for me to give you my Playground Analogy.

I hope you are ready for this.   The Playground Analogy is one of the Top Ten great analogies of life.  It helps describe a healthy relationship with God, and positive attitude for your life.  Great Christian psychologists are humbled by this analogy; it puts books like Boundaries into the “Amateur Psychology” section of Barnes and Nobel.  And, most importantly for us dads, it is a great mindset to teach your kids.

I went a little far describing the importance of this analogy.  Or did I?  You may be the judge.

The Playground

Some of you may not have had an elementary school experience and it’s an essential part of this analogy.  I’m going to describe the typical elementary school playground environment to give you the basis for this fantastic metaphor.

At my elementary school in the late 70’s there was a brick building that was the school.  It was pretty typical of a school: teachers, principal, music, art, gym, cafeteria – the whole thing.  As students, we would sit in class for a portion of the day, then we would have recess.  We would all line up and file out to the doors opening up into the . . .  playground.

The playground was an area directly outside the school.  Part of it was asphalt, and there was a portion that was a grassy field.  In the playground there was a kickball field painted on the asphalt.  There were slides, there was a merry-go-round (now condemned by most schools as a ‘death trap’).  There were swings and monkey-bars, and basketball hoops and teeter-totters (seesaws) and one of those new play equipment things that one kid used to call the Big-a-bang.

. . . and there was a fence around the playground.

The fence was an important part of the playground.  On one side, it created a safety barrier to the road and the downtown neighborhood.  Another side bordered the high school, where sometimes teenagers could be seen walking the track, skipping school, and having class outside.  Another side bordered a woods and graveyard.

When we would go out for recess as kindergartners, we didn’t get to play in the whole playground.  We were corralled into a small section with the little swings, the Big-a-bang and some other playground equipment.  We could only shyly observe the ‘big kids’ playing kickball or using the ‘big’ slides.  Several teachers watched our area and patrolled the border so that none of us wandered out into the areas where we could get clobbered by a kickball or flattened by a kid playing tag.

When we were older, we graduated to the whole playground.  The slides, the monkey-bars, all of it, was ours!  Some kids sat in a circle talking, some played team games, some played by themselves.  The pleasant cacophony of kids’ voices filled the air.  Teachers walked around and watched over the playground, sometimes from a position out of the wind near the school, and sometimes walked among us supervising our interaction.  Periodically, a teacher would even organize a game or spin the merry-go-round super-fast (sending many kids to the nurse).

That’s the playground; a wonderful place of play and experience, surrounded by a fence.

Seems pretty simple to be one of the top ten great analogies for life.  But, like many analogies, the playground symbolizes something much bigger than a piece of school property.  You, I, all of us, should strive to live in the playground of life.  God says the He has come for us to have life to the full.  That means that we get to enjoy our playground and play on the swings and slides and run around and interact appropriately with others and enjoy it all.   God’s kingdom is with us.  And I think that God’s kingdom is a lot like a really great playground.  So much of this life God created for us to experience and enjoy.  There are so many types of people for us to meet, and befriend, and to join in playing together.

There are also fences for each of our lives.  God has areas blocked off because they are dangerous, or we are just not mature enough yet to experience them.  Every life needs a boundary.  We all need to know what area is our responsibility and what areas are not.  We need to know how far we can run and still be under the watchful eye of our teacher.

That’s another cool thing about the Playground that ties into our spiritual relationship:  God is the Superintendent of the school – the supreme leader of the whole area (including what’s outside the fence).  He’s also the Teacher watching out for us in the Playground.  He’s the one spinning the merry-go-round super-fast.  He’s the one that keeps the kickball team selection fair.  He’s interacting with us and watching us.  And, to be super mystically spiritual, He’s also running with us and playing with us everywhere we go.

There’s more on this spiritual connection involving the playground at the end of this post.  The important part of this analogy is that it’s a mindset and philosophy to teach your kids.  As a dad, we are always trying to give our kids a legitimate playground experience in real life.  I’m sure you’ve taken your kids to a playground, or park, or play area at a restaurant.  Share with them the concept of why fences are important and how God wants us to be free to have a full life in our designated play area.

Take a moment right now as a dad and think about your playground.  Are you enjoying all your play area?  Are you feeling God’s guidance and protection for how you interact and play?  Are you sure where your fences are?

I’m going to conclude this post by being pretty heretical.  A while back I was thinking about the Playground and re-wrote a section of John in playground terminology.  I’m including it below and also the correct version from the Bible.  As always, drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

John 10: The Playground (Brad Version)

The man who doesn’t check in with the office before going onto the playground is a child molester or a kidnapper.  The person who checks in with the office before going onto the playground is the teacher.  The teacher can go outside and watch the kids and the kids listen to the teacher.  The teacher knows each of the children that are in the class.  When the teacher tells the children to line up to go inside, they listen.  The children won’t follow a stranger; in fact they will run away from strangers because they are scared of them.

I am the office that people must check in with before going onto the playground.  Everyone else who has tried to go on the playground before me was a child molester and kidnapper, but the children didn’t listen to them.  I am the office, whoever checks in through me will be safe.  He or she can go onto the playground and play and line up and follow the teacher inside.  The kidnappers and child molesters only come to hurt the little kids, but I have come so that they may be safe and can enjoy their time on the playground.

I am the teacher.  The teacher will die for the children in the class.  The substitute teacher is not the real teacher.  When the substitute teacher sees a child molester or a person with a gun, they run away, then the evil person shoots all the kids and the rest run out into traffic.  The substitute runs away because he is not the real teacher and doesn’t love the kids as much.

I am the real teacher.  I know my children and my children know me–just as the principal knows me and I know the principal—I would die for the kids I watch.

The Real John 10:1-15

101″I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. 7Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.A He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me– 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.

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