We live in a small village in western Ireland – a small village. So small, in fact, that if you blink while driving through it you’ll miss it. We have a small grocery store, an elementary school, a secondary school, some small factories tucked away behind houses, a church and two pubs. That’s it. Whenever we need to shop for more than basic groceries: buy clothes, or go to a movie, or go swimming, we have to leave our village and go somewhere else. Nobody complains too much about it; things are the way they are, and you just have to deal with it. But, we all agree it would sure be handy to have a few more amenities around. Well, friends, we recently acquired one such amenity!
This spring they opened a brand new playground in our village – in our village! I’ll never forget when we took our children to it for the first time. It was tucked into a lovely, shady corner next to the local soccer field. It’s surrounded by freshly planted greens, a lovely brick wall and a safety fence. There were state of the art “big toys”, swings, slides and a zip line. We walked in the gate and set the kids loose. I took a few minutes to get acclimated to my surroundings when I became acutely aware of something. My children were laughing. Not just giggling or chuckling, but all out belly laughing. The kind of laughter that comes from somewhere you can’t express in words; the kind of laughter that you can’t hold back, and would explode if you tried. I saw expressions of joy on the children’s faces I’ve not seen in ages, if ever.
I watched as they ran from apparatus to apparatus, unable to get to each new toy fast enough. Squeals of delight and shrieks of elation brought unspeakable peace and a quiet satisfaction to this mother’s heart. It was then I heard a still small voice, deep in my soul. “Learn from your children“, it echoed to the core of my being. I looked closer at my precious daughters, running free. Free from fear, free from pressure, stress, obligation and guilt. Only one emotion was evident in their sweet faces: unbridled joy. They were free to explore and play and experience within the boundaries that were in place. And you know what? They not once noticed the fence. Not once did they ask why the fence was there; try to figure out how to play as close to outside the fence as possible without getting caught; never once complained that the fence was tying them down, making it impossible to enjoy themselves.
How often do I experience unbridled joy just by enjoying what God has placed before me? When was the last time I was physically incapable of containing my laughter and exuberance? How often do I focus on the fences in my life rather than the plethora of amazing opportunities He’s placed before me?
God has given us vast freedom within the boundaries He put in place for our own safety. Those boundaries are designed to allow us to fully enjoy the life He has blessed us with, without fear of failure or harm. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever get hurt or fall. There were certainly plenty of opportunities for my children to fall and get hurt at that playground today. Goodness knows those opportunities were blatantly clear to this mother’s eyes! And my daughters have had their fair share of losing out on fun times at a playground due to fear of pain. However, that day, they put their fear out of their minds and just played to their hearts’ content.
Let us take a lesson from my six and four year olds. Let’s play and run and frolic until the unbridled joy that comes from living in the freedom He’s given us bursts forth and touches those around us with His light.