An unexpected surprise
10:02, 10:03, 10:04 a.m…
I knew it would be cutting it close as I opened the door to my car and raced off to church this morning. I was asked to serve at the end of the 9 a.m. service and I knew the clock was ticking. When I arrived, I parked my car, smiled at the unseasonably warm weather, and briskly walked into the church. Right away, I noticed people mulling about in the lobby.
“Oh shoot,” I thought. “Is it over?”
I walked into the auditorium and the lights were all on. Service was over and everyone had left the sanctuary. I found a staff member and apologized for being late and neglecting my duties.
“Oh, don’t worry!” she said. “Today is a different kind of day.”
I usually attend the second service at 11 a.m., so after talking to a few people, I walked upstairs to the second floor lobby and enveloped myself into the cushions of a really comfy couch. To be honest, I was thinking, “What am I going to do for an hour?” I was bummed that I missed my responsibility and also missed some extra sleep. A spontaneous phone call led me to a 90s music dance party in Wisconsin last night so my bed was definitely calling. But then all of a sudden my phone lit up.
“Hey Lauren, will you come meet Lynn and I in the Hawthorn Room so we can talk about planning for our small group?” my friend Kirsten texted me.
“Sure,” I replied. “I’ll be right there.”
Every ounce of me wanted to stay on that couch. By this point I was laying down and my eyelids were starting to flutter. But I pushed myself up and reluctantly began the trek down the stairs.
As I turned the corner to enter the Hawthorn Room, bright bursts of red, yellow and blue met my eyes, along with a lot of children’s laughter. A giant bouncy house filled the room, and another one, and two other games filled the space.
“What is this?!” I exclaimed, as I flipped off my shoes to race up the inflatable slide. After sliding down the fifth time (and almost knocking over a few small children), I learned that the church set up some inflatables for families to play together on that day.
As the 11 a.m. service began, I learned that the sermon theme was “play” and that’s what we got to do the entire morning through interactive games and laughs. Our pastor explained that Jesus came so we would have life and have life to the full (John 10:10) and when we carve time to play, life and creativity and freedom and joy come into our lives. He said, “What kind of dad doesn’t enjoy seeing his kids having fun?” and reminded us that God our Father loves when we’re enjoying our lives, too.
Kids really get this concept so I try to hang out with them a lot. As adults, I think life can sometimes trample us and we can get burdened by responsibilities, worries and heartaches. We forget to play. In essence, we’re building a wall sometimes to stop more pain from coming in, but in that, we also miss out on the joy. To play is to be vulnerable. To play is to let our guard down. To play is to lay aside the sadness or the pride for a little while and to let joy rule.
When I saw that bouncy house today, just for a split second, everything stopped. As the sheer exhilaration came over me, there was also a pause and I sensed God saying, “I do this for my kids, too. Each day, I hide joy bombs throughout their day. I hide little surprises for them to find. I want my kids to enjoy their lives.”
I don’t know about you, but in 2020, I don’t want to miss the joy bombs. I want to actively search for them throughout my days and put them together like a bouquet of flowers to admire at the end of each day. I want to recognize the garden of joy God has placed around me and enjoy the life he has so graciously given me. Even in the hard seasons.
I think with a little intentionality, we can spot the joy in our lives. What joy bombs did you experience today? Looking back, what ones did you maybe miss? What will tomorrow look like as you scan through your day for these little moments of joy?
And if all of a sudden tomorrow, you turn the corner and there’s a giant bouncy house waiting for you, I hope you’ll take a moment to race up to the top and fly down the slide.