Friday, September 7, 2012

Playground Lesson 5: Swings - The Exhilaration of Jumping High
Push off! Lean back! Tuck in! Lean back! Tuck in! Lean back! Harder, faster higher and higher! Soaring up towards the sky! Speeding down to the earth! Wind in your hair. The sensation of flying. 
     Playing on the swings was probably my favorite playground activity. I relished the sense of flight I had as I pumped my way ever higher into the sky. I loved everything about the swings. Even the dismount had its own pleasure ... if you had the nerve to do it.
     You see, if you weren't ready to jump, you had to just let yourself slow down and step off the swing when it was going slowly enough. Otherwise, you had to drag your feet on the ground for a quick stop.
     Oh, but the jump! The jump was the ultimate way to dismount. Only the best could jump while the swing was at the highest point of its arc. Most of us slowed down a little until the arc was not quite so high. Even so, nothing compares to the sensation you get when you leap from the safety of the swing, projecting yourself through the air ... and (hopefully) landing on your feet.
     Keeping to the pattern of the previous posts about tether ball and monkey bars, let's consider three facts about swings.
  • Tucking in is as important as leaning back if you want to swing higher.
  • When you are preparing to jump, you have to get your elbows out of the way.
  • Jump at the right point of the arc.
 Let's picture our life with Jesus in terms of playing on a swing. Our Lord wants us to soar higher and higher with Him. He has provided the seat and the chains that connect us to the pole. Without those chains, the swing can't go anywhere. He invites us to sit with Him on the swing and soar.  

Tuck In and Lean Back
     We have our part to do. We decide to join Him. We push off and lean back, tuck in, lean , back again. Both of these motions are equally important.
     I think of the "tuck in" motion as the times we need to just be still and let God work in us. This is when we take the time to just BE with Him. As we do this, He takes us to the point of the arc where we are ready for action again.
     The "lean back" motion is the one where we exert our own energy as we cooperate with Him to soar ever higher. This is when we step out in faith in our everyday lives, reaching out in love to those who are hurting, giving generously to those in need, speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. This is when we actively, intentionally love our families and invest in their lives. "Leaning back" is God's love in action. Remember, though, that you don't do this alone. Without those "chains" connecting you to the framework, you couldn't go anywhere.

Get Out of the Way
     You are soaring ever higher with each pump of your feet. Each tuck in and lean back cycle causes you to soar closer and closer to the sky ... or so it seems. Then God says "Jump!"  This is not the usual, "Give your daughter a hug. She needs one right now." This is not the normal, "OK, enough computer for now. Your family needs some attention." This is not even the ordinary, "That person ringing the doorbell ... she needs a friend. Take time for her."
     No, this time God is asking you to jump into something far bigger than you have faced before. It is a major life change. Perhaps He is asking you to leave the security of the known and trust Him with the unknown. Perhaps something has happened that is out of your control - the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, serious illness. Perhaps He is asking you to CHOOSE to make a change without telling you how it is going to turn out.
     Either way, God is asking you to jump. You may not want to jump. It looks scary. What if you fall? What if you fail? It is rather enjoyable there on the swing in this comfortable rhythm you have with Jesus. Why spoil that? But God says, "Jump!".
     All those protests you may offer ... think of those as being your elbows. When preparing for a jump from  a swing, you have to get your elbows out of the way. You reposition your hands on the chain so you elbows are in front of the chain, and not behind. With elbows out of the way, a swinger can leap from the swing without scraping elbows and arms on the chain.
     When you let go of all the reasons why you SHOULDN'T jump ... when you reposition your "hands" so that those protests are out of the way, you are in a position to take the leap
Jump at the Right Point.
     OK. One more "tuck in". Lord, help me. I don't know how this is going to turn out. But I trust You. You said to jump, so I'll do it.  Just please give me the courage to make the leap and the wisdom to know just when to do it.
     Then one more "lean back". I will do this, Lord. I'm taking the first steps. I'm picking up the phone. I'm sitting down to write that letter. I'm heading to the hospital.
     Then it comes to the crucial point of the arc. It is time to let go and leap. You don't want to leap too early and have the swing hit you in the back as it continues on the upward arc. Nor do you want to jump too late and end up on your face in the dirt. You want to jump and just the right point of the arc.
     You are carried high by the chains that obviously and comfortably connect you to the pole. At just the right point of the arc, Jesus says, "NOW!" You propel yourself out of that seat of comparative safety and start to fly.
     You feel for a time that you are out of control. In fact, you ARE out of control. As you soar through the air, there is absolutely nothing you can do other than position yourself to land. You don't fight or flail around in mid-air. You relax and bend your knees as you  
Get Up and Do It Again
     Of course, the first few times you make this leap, you may fall on your backside, so to speak. No need to worry about that. Jesus is right there.  He invites you to get up and swing with Him again.
     And you do. Why? Because as terrified as you may have been, nothing compares to the exhilaration of making that leap of faith and finding Jesus there with you.
     Hand in hand, you walk back to the swings. 
     Push off! Lean back! Tuck in! Lean back! Tuck in! Lean back!Soaring higher and higher with Jesus! Then once again, He says, "Jump!" You jump ... and always find His arms are waiting.

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