Uneven Fields

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

photo credit: PhillipJackson via photopin cc

The middle one told me about recess one day, how they play soccer between a few trees and on uneven ground. Kids are good like that, making fields in the midst of a mess. A stadium from a few sticks and woodchips.

They run their little hearts out from start to finish, sucking the marrow out of each precious second of a too-short recess in a too-long day.

He also told me about the teams. They’re unfair. You see, kids–even young ones–have leaders and followers. And this particular group of leaders (like playgrounds the world over, I’m sure) divide the teams. Into unfair ones, mostly. The talented kids band together. The lesser ones form a team by default.

We’ve dealt with this issue all year with the older boy and football at recess. They do the same thing even as they get older, wiser. They do not divide into what is reasonable or fair. The strong clasp hands with the strong. The weaker ones feel happy just to be included. Our older boy deals with this from the perspective of the disadvantaged team. They always lose. Always. There’s no chance for a different outcome.

With the middle boy, it’s a different story. He’s on the stacked team. The leaders put him there. When I talked to him about it, how it wasn’t a fairly matched game, he agreed. “But they don’t listen to me, Mom.”

I shook my head and struggled. There are some playground lessons you have to let them figure out on their own. But there are others, othersthat seem to scream with a lesson. Grab this moment, it yells, and teach.

Just because they won’t listen, I said, does not mean that it’s right. He nodded.

And then I lowered my voice to a whisper and he leaned in close. I told him about teams and imbalance and how the brother he looks up to in so many ways, faces that stacked team EVERY DAY. From the wrong side. And it feels terrible.

His eyes, wide. They were already open to something not feeling right. But they were opened to the humanity of it in the form of his brother. At that moment, I think he realized recess was filled not just with random kids but with brothers and sisters as well.

He looked at me. I looked at him. But I was stumped. I honestly don’t know how you can fix this, I said. This teacher–his mama–was out of answers.

With confidence, he looked at me. The boy, the student said, “Well, I can always just play for the other team.”

It was at that moment in my kitchen, amidst crumbs on the table and laundry piled high, that I felt pure awe. The boy. In front of me. Acting like Jesus.

Sacrifice. Service. In the form of a simple soccer game on an uneven field.

I hadn’t even thought about that, I exclaimed. That’s brilliant! You could play for the other team–give them a chance. Be a champion. Make waves!

He shrugged his shoulders as if it were no big thing, sacrificing a sure win for the sake of these kids. I grinned at him and told him it was a darn big thing.

A darn big thing.

So he came home the next day–lots to say about plenty. He finally got around to talking about the game and I waited, anxious, to hear about whether he had made waves.

He had.

They were incredulous that he would want to switch teams. We’ll win so easily if you stay, they had cried. He shrugged his shoulders–it’s not fair, he had said. And that’s that.

He played goalie for the other team and he blocked that goal with his whole heart.

What happened, what happened? I begged. Oh, please, God, let this story end well.

“We tied.”

You tied! You helped them tie the game?!

“We didn’t win but at least we tied.” Something that has never happened. Ever.

We shared high fives and I told him I was proud. The boy did something great, in a long lifetime of choices between doing the right thing and doing the easy, feel-good thing.

It was only a simple game of soccer, yes. But it was a sacrifice left on an uneven altar that God honors.

Comments

  1. Alyce Ross says:

    Katie, I love the way you live and think. I pray your thinking stimulates other parents to live “like Jesus,” a sacrificial life. Thank you.
    Alyce Ross

  2. I love how you put your daily life into words many of us can’t express, but can so relate to. Thanks, Katie!

  3. Lynn Wesolek, Lake Geneva says:

    This applies to adults, too, not just kids. Thank you, and God, for this never-ending wonderful lesson!

  4. Oh, Katie. I love this! What a wonderfully proud mama moment!

  5. What a powerful choice…. an empowering choice – that boy of yours made! Who can know how that impacted each child – on the ‘winning’ team – and the other side of the field… but when we are young – and we encounter someone who stands up for what’s right and looks a lot like Jesus – it sort of sticks with us! Good job Mama for sowing into him – and then LETTING God prompt his heart to make the choice! He gets to take ownership of his decision and he will most likely get to make that choice again and again! Blessings!

    • Thanks so much, Karrilee! I was so proud of his choice and then his follow-through. I’m thankful to see Jesus working in him at such a young age. It’s encouraging to see our children acting out what we are teaching!

  6. Ann Kenny says:

    Simply awesome in so many ways, Katie!

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