Thursday, September 6, 2012

Playground Lesson 4: Hopscotch - Obstacles, Challenges, and Triumph

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     Do you remember playing hopscotch when you were young? A group of giggling girls lines up at the edge of the hopscotch game area. Each has a stone to use as her marker. 
     Each girl in turn tosses her stone onto the numeral 1 in the playing area. She hops over numeral one and then jumps on each succeeding number in turn. The next time, she has to toss the stone onto the numeral 2, and so forth. At some point, she has to bend down and pick up her stone, usually while balancing on one foot.
     Complicating matters is the fact that all the other girls in turn do the same thing. Eventually, stones are scattered throughout the playing area. Any player who accidentally puts her foot down on a square that contains a stone is out, and has to redo that turn.
     I've probably forgotten more of the hopscotch rules than I remember anyway.  I do remember these three facts about hopscotch, though.
  • The game becomes more challenging  as more girls join the game.
  • You need a good sense of balance to navigate the playing area.
  • There is a sense of triumph when the goal is reached.
     Let's picture it like this. Our life is like a hopscotch grid. Each person God brings into our life is like another girl joining the game. Each player's stone represents the unique issues and struggles brought by that person to the game. The more people we allow into our lives, the more complex and challenging the "game" becomes.

Challenging Game of Life
      I don't know about you, but sometimes I wish that I only had to deal with my own problems, without having to also deal with the complications other people bring into life's "hopscotch grid". Life wouldn't be so challenging if we only had to deal with our own stuff.
     The fact is that unless we want to become a recluse, and isolate ourselves from the world, other people's "stuff" will complicate our lives and challenge us to jump further than we would otherwise have to jump. In the game of hopscotch, that increasing challenge is what makes the game interesting.  
     So it is with life. We can try to avoid "playing with" difficult people in order to keep our lives simple, but that is not how God wants us to play this game of life. He wants us to include other people in our "game", even when it complicates things. No, the Bible doesn't talk about including others in our hopscotch game, but it does talk about us being salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-14) We can't be salt and light in this world if we keep to ourselves.

Stay Balanced
     I recall how difficult it was to lean over while standing on one foot to pick up my stone. It required a good sense of balance, something I did NOT have in abundance. 
     In life, we also need a good sense of balance. As God brings more people our way who challenge us with their issues and struggles, we need to maintain a good balance in our personal lives. Yes, the problems others face do impact us. Yes, God brings these people our way so we can reach out to them in love. He wants us to be His hands and feet right where we are. 
     In order to do that effectively, it is essential that we maintain our relationship with God. We must be careful not to neglect our family. We have to guard against neglecting all aspects of our own health. We do no one any good if we minister to the point of breakdown because we have not maintained this kind of balance. Jesus Himself took time to get away with His Father before launching back into ministering to others. We certainly need to do the same.

Sense of Triumph 
     As any girl knows who is able to play hopscotch really well, getting to the end of the game brings a sense of triumph ... a sense of accomplishment. She has overcome all the obstacles. She has maintained her balance. She has won the game.
     The apostle Paul used a different metaphor to talk about this. 

   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

     Paul most certainly knew about the obstacles and challenges other people could present. He didn't try to avoid those challenges. He met them head-on. He didn't give up. In the end, he knew he had done all that he could, and that his reward awaited him.
     The sense of triumph at the end of a game of hopscotch is gratifying to a young girl. How much greater that feeling will be  when we hear our Father tell us "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21, 23)

What about you? Has God brought lots of people into your "hopscotch game of life"? Do you welcome them, even though their "stones" complicate your life, or do you try to avoid them whenever possible? How are you doing keeping your balance in the midst of all those "stones"? I invite you to get real here, and share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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