We waited for this precious experience every single day.
Small children snarfing down their lunch, tater tots flying, ketchup splattering, milk dribbling. We were racing against the clock. We had to get to recess.
Sure, recess came three times a day throughout my years of very early youth. But the length after-lunch recess was solely dependent on our ability to inhale our food and power walk from the cafeteria to the outside door. (Note: Sometimes a second grader’s definition of “not running” is different than the principal’s definition. And you had to walk that line carefully, or the five minutes you spent in the office during recess for “running” would nearly break your heart. Not that I would know.)
Most parents (and teachers for that matter) frowned at our strategy to scarf and run. But the moment that we heard the click of that recess door opening made it the fact that we barely tasted our pig-in-the-blanket so worth it.
I loved my elementary playground. I actually got a little bit nostalgic thinking about it this week. It was huge– or at least seemed huge to an 8-year-old. (I’m sure now the vastness of the play area seems rather proportionate to the size of us kids.)
We were a tiny school, but man-oh-man, that playground changed our life. We had the huge slide and monkey bars, and concrete basketball court that doubled as a 4-square area. Down the hill was an open area to run and “play pretend” which overlooked a wheat field. On the edge of that hill (just beyond our boundaries) a hearty crop of wild gourds grew, which was super fun to explore… until you got busted.
The playground had a fenced in tennis court where we could bring roller skates. It had a huge red swing where we did “Underdogs.” (Again, as long as you didn’t get caught.) Then in the far corner of the grounds was a low-lying around that could be used for “playing house” or kickball or more frolicking.
I loved that playground. There was such FREEDOM, openness, joy, imagination there. And while we might have complained back then, I am now thankful that we had a “Playground guardian” watching our every (other) move.
You know the person I am talking about– that one teacher who is assigned for the week to be on duty, with that trusty whistle around her neck, ready to break up any mischievous ideas that sprouted out of our young minds. She was like a lifeguard on dry land.
That weekly “Playground Guardian” would pick me up when I fell and skinned my knee. She would comfort me if someone hurt my feelings. She kept me within the boundaries of the playground when I got a little too involved in gourd hunting. She even taught me that the 4th graders are often incorrect in their teachings. (Specifically when they tell you that a purple flower blossom is called honeysuckle, and if you suck on the flower, honey will come out… turns out honey comes only from a beehive, not a bitter tasting flower.)
As I fondly reflected on my playground experiences, my mind was drawn to God. Isn’t our Lord and Savior very similar to that “Playground Guardian” in our everyday walk in life? He gives us freedom to roam around, but always calls us back to Him when we get too far away. He picks us up when we are hurting. And He to clarifies the lessons of life, whether they come from a 4th grader, a neighbor, friend or spouse.
I am so thankful that I get to “play” daily in this vast and beautiful world… but I am even more thankful that no matter what hair-brained honeysuckle ideas I come up with, God is always there to gently guide me back to Him. He is my Playground Guardian.
Grateful to be Guarded by the Great One,
“He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.” –Psalm 121:3-4 MSG