If you’ve ever accompanied your child to one of those play place-like “fun centers” that are all the rage these days, you’ll probably find yourself with a little time to spare—great for reflecting on the meaning of life, God’s presence in the world, etc.
The nearest “fun center” in our area is an establishment called One Stop Fun, located in Westford, MA., not too far from the Nashoba Valley Ski Resort.
How is God like a ballpit?
Think about it. The concept of God as all-encompassing, all-welcoming, all-powerful, fits the fun center model pretty well.
All kids – of different sizes, shapes, genders, backgrounds, families of origin, etc. – can be found frolicking inside the very democratic interior of the multicolored ball pit. Add to that, the fact that very often parents or older siblings sometimes join in the play, and venture into the pit as well, and you have a very all-encompassing environment.
It’s definitely an equal opportunity playground. The diversity is mind-boggling. One can’t help but think that this is what God had in mind for all of us, young and old alike. If only adults could still have the same openness to new experiences, new friendships, new ways of interacting with our world. Once we get older, it seems, a sort of petrification sets in, and patterns and habits get so entrenched that we lose our sense of adventure and free-flowing playfulness.
The power of the pit
What about God’s power? Well, for starters, consider all the physical energy being expended in the fun center—enough to power several suburbs, if we were ever able to harness it.
And then, there are the individual feats of strength and derring-do, from jumping to running, hanging to bouncing, sliding to swinging, dangling to diving.
We’ve also spoken of God’s voice being akin to thunder—well, when you picture the cacophony of scores of hypervocal youngsters, shouting and screaming at the tops of their lungs, God’s thunder isn’t that far off from the decibel levels inside the fun center. From the “still, small voice” of angels to the roaring, raw power of rough-housing rugrats, the comparison holds up very well.
The love of God
Finally, there’s the concept that “God is love.” It may be too simplistic to suggest that children love the fun center. Obviously, there are deeper forces at play here, too.
If the sum total of the experience were just an ordinary collection of ball pits, slides, climbing walls, running places, jumping mats, and safety nets, there wouldn’t be much to it at all—hardly an activity that would hold the attention of any kid for very long (just take a kid to a deserted playground, with no other children present, and one can see how short that outing lasts).
But throw in the interaction of all the children, and especially the friendships and acquaintances (no matter how casual) forged in such a short time, and we can definitely see the power of love at work. For, after all, love is the deepest form of relationship—a true gift from God—which the youngsters experience in a very small way through their play time together.
Love—or friendship—no matter how brief or teeny-tiny in this world—does manage to give our children a little foretaste of the heavenly depths of divine love, which they’ll ultimately be able to experience in all its fullness some day.
Jesus has been quoted as saying, “let the little children come to me.” Certainly, the fun center, as a symbol for Christ’s overwhelming appeal, could say the same, if we stretch our imagination just a wee little bit.