I’m thankful that when I’m living hard and fast, there are markers all along the way that teach, remind and correct me toward the big goal at the end of all the craziness.
It was a crazy day spent with my favorite Floridian, two-year-old Maggie. We got out of the house for a little while on a warm afternoon to go to the park and give Maggie’s mom a few minutes of semi-quiet time with the newborn before supper. The park we love was closed for renovations, so I drove around looking for another place to play. I was just about to give up, when I saw a small playground space beside some old tennis courts. Knowing that even a tiny bit of playground equipment seems big and inviting to a two-year-old, I parked and we went in.
The moms there were not Christians. In fact, from their language, the language of their children, their parenting skills and their dress, I knew that we probably would not stay very long and we would try to invite them to worship if given the chance to converse at all. Sure enough, it wasn’t very long until one of the moms exploded in anger at a very young child. Maggie came running to me and looked up with frightened, innocent eyes. I walked her to the corner of the playground and explained to her that this mom did not know Jesus. She didn’t know about how Jesus teaches us to treat each other with kindness. “She doesn’t know about how mamas are supposed to love their children and teach them to be like Jesus. She doesn’t know about how losing our temper and yelling is not pleasing to God. She just doesn’t know.…So why don’t we pray for her that she can come to know Jesus?” Maggie thought that was a good idea and so we bowed our heads and talked to God about that mother and her sweet children.
We didn’t get a chance to talk to her about God, because she grabbed up those children and put them in the car, still spouting off at them and at the man who was with them. She really didn’t stop yelling long enough for us to say anything at all.
Still, Maggie was sure of the power of our prayer. “I think she is still going to ‘wepent,’” she said, as the mom, who is surely destined for trouble unless repentance does occur was huffing away.
But then another mom and daughter came to the fort. Maggie kept asking the little girl her name, but it was apparent to me that the little girl did not speak English. At last Maggie just smiled, motioned for her to follow and said “Come on, Allie!” Then she looked over at me, palms up with a look of “Oh-well” in her eyes and said “Well, she doesn’t talk, so I’ll just call her Allie.” Allie (who was really Leilani, we were to find out) was sweet to Maggie and taught her how to climb the rocks to the top of the slide (something Maggie had been reluctant to do prior to “Allie’s” arrival.) Maggie was so proud of this big achievement.
It was this second sweet mom, who was willing to listen to us talk about the church. She was the one who said they would like to visit the church there in Orange Park and hear Maggie’s daddy preach the gospel. She really did seem interested in bringing Allie to Bible class so she could see Maggie again. I thought about our Lord and how he sometimes found himself in the company of those who had no respect for His Father. He found himself in the house of a despised tax collector, at the temple with the greedy, at the table with scoffers, or at the well with someone of disrepute. I thought about how that, often, it was the most-respected people of His society, the Pharisees, who were the least likely to open their closed ears and hearts to the good news. He even said it was these people who were fulfilling this prophecy of Isaiah:
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
And often it was the least likely person—the Samaritan woman at the well, the tax-collector in the tree, the distressed woman of Tyre, or the woman of Magdala who was demon possessed—that had the greatest potential to offer the cause of Christ.
Sweet little Maggie. Every night she prays that she can be like Jesus. I’m glad that our “regular” playground was closed. I’m glad she had a chance to tell Allie to “come on.” I’m glad I had the chance, in her hearing, to invite Allie’s mom to “come on” and study the Scriptures. I hope she learned that day that being like Jesus sometimes means talking about Him even when we find ourselves in the “wrong playground.”
Sometimes in life, I’ve found myself in the wrong playground and I’ve been afraid to say the name of Jesus. I want to always have Maggie’s heart and believe that people can and often will still “wepent.”