How an afternoon on the swing set became a lifestyle…
It’s been a while since I’ve been on a swing set. I’ve been sick the past few weeks, and sometimes getting outside in this beautiful weather is the only thing that doesn’t make me feel like a lethargic noodle. On my walk the other day, I passed a park. About a dozen families were out there with their little ones. They were pushing their kids on the swing, watching them go down the slide, and helping their kids muster strength for the monkey bars.
I decided to go on the swing, as soon as some of the crazy kids cleared off.
I had forgotten how fun it was to “swing on the swings”. A perfect fall day activity. There is still something so competitive in me that I wanted to swing higher than the kid next to me haha… but once he got off, I was able to enjoy the swing for what it was worth.
When you pump your legs, the swing moves. The bigger the pump, the faster and higher you go. If you want to slow down, you just merely stop pumping until you eventually stop. When I was little, my pumping only got me so high. Now that I am older and have more leg strength… I can pump myself higher and go for longer. However, the other day I stopped pumping only because my legs were tired… not because I wasn’t enjoying the ride and the swing… but because I was physically tired.
I was bummed because I wanted to keep swinging but my legs were burning. I thought, man, to be a kid again and have someone just push you. Kids could literally be on the swing for hours with someone pushing them. Like the kids I nanny, “One more time Brookie! Keep pushing me. Higher. Higher” They giggle, and time just seems to have no say in those moments. As a kid, you didn’t have to pump. You never got tired of swinging because someone was pushing you and controlling the pace of the swing.
There is so much beauty and power in being a kid. I think us adults are tired and burnt out. Myself included. Within 30 seconds of meeting me you know I’m a go getter. I rarely say no to a challenge. It could be an ab challenge, Bible reading challenge, running, lifting, no social media… you name it… I’ll sign up. This can be a good thing when it comes to being disciplined, but I also fall into the trap of being performance based and grow tired.
On the swings, it hit me. I need to become a child again. In a world full of people proving, pushing, persuading, and “pumping”, we lose the childlike ability to trust someone else to get us where we ultimately want to be. Perhaps God wants us to enjoy the ride, but not in our own strength which causes burn out. What if even as adults, with careers, kids, responsibilities, debt, and personal upkeep… He wants us to enjoy the life set before us. You see we are disillusioned as adults. We think the “bigger our muscles”, the more we can push ourselves higher on the swing set of life.
But what if that strength was given to us to surrender… to realize that no matter how strong we get we still need someone that can push us so we can enjoy the ride. No father pushing their kid on the swing is gonna say to their kid, “Okay, sweetie now that you turned 6 last week and your muscles are growing, I want you to push yourself and get as high as daddy pushed you last week… but don’t worry I’ll be on the park bench secretly waiting for you to realize you can’t do it.”
If you are a dad and you think that… you be friggen cray.
But so many of us think that way about Jesus. We think our past, the lessons we have learned, the endurance we’ve produced, and the strength we’ve gained are all for carrying us through the next hard thing. If we partner our strength with a dose of God’s love n slap a smile on our faces, then we can continue the Christian life. This way of thinking will cause burnout. What God is interested in is humility…despite the muscles. Growing, responsibilities, discipline, strength, and principles are necessary when it comes to living… but so many of us Christians think we gain those things in order to live a more effective Christian life…
No no no hunny bunny. We got this backwards. That is worldly thinking. That is us thinking that we were rescued in order to pump ourselves to live a better life and bring a few souls with us… then burnout enters stage left and we are back to square one.
Let’s put it this way, when I was on the swing pumping “higher and higher” the swings were enjoyable. I got to see the river, enjoy the wind on my face, and have moments of bliss… but amid all of that was muscle fatigue. When someone pushes you, you get the joy of the ride without the muscle fatigue. This is surrender. You can work 9-5, setup a 401k, put your kids in the best university, buy a house, get a cat or dog (hopefully dog, I hate cats), get married by 22, go to church, and even encourage someone through a blog (me), but only encounter joy for a few moments because underneath it all you are fatigued. Your muscles are cramping. Then you think to yourself, this isn’t even worth it because I am tired.
When I stopped pumping on the swing, I came to a slow stop. “I was like well, that was fun, but I am reminded as to why I do not go on the swings.” I was kind of sore the next day HAHA. If someone would have come and pushed me, I would have stayed. Unfortunately, this story only counts as a good metaphor, because a grown woman was not finna ask a dad or mom at the park to come push me. Social boundaries are a good thing people. But you get the picture.
I think about our lives and how God really intended us to live. In freedom. With Him. We can go back to the Garden of Eden and see just how God wanted us to live. In abundance, eating, enjoying, sleeping, multiplying, and fellow-shipping. Then sin entered and cursed us and the earth and everything in it. Now we live in an era where we are smarter, more resourced, and “stronger”. We try everything we can to reverse the curse in our lives; enjoying the “high” moments as they come paired with a lil muscle fatigue- thinking God abandoned us when the low moments come our way.
We need to go back to simplicity of living. From the mouth of Jesus, “Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). I used to read this verse thinking “I need to do more to lose my life. To give it up.” Maybe I need to do the Christian life more effectively. That way of thinking is still my sloppy attempt at securing my life, but now I am just labeling it The Life of a Christian. Losing my life is literally surrendering every thought of control, outcome, expectation, and works realizing I am nothing and cannot do this life without Him.
When Jesus was preaching a series of parables, people were bringing their babies to him, so that He would touch them. The disciples, his own close followers rebuked them…. Listen closely to what Jesus does, “Jesus, however, invited them: ‘Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them, because the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’” (Luke 18:15-17)
Notice He says, “such as these”. He doesn’t say anyone under the age of 2… No. He is acknowledging the humble hearts of those who earnestly seek and depend on Him.
What does this look like in your life? If you think you have the answer, you don’t. If you think you have the muscles, wisdom, and resources to get yourself to where you see yourself in the future, you don’t. If you think you have the looks and personality for the marriage you’ve always wanted, you don’t. If you think you have the financial security to give, you don’t. If you think you are ready for what God has next for you, you aren’t.
You know what you have? Jesus. The only guarantee. That’s who you have. He has done the work.“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
These other things are false senses of security. This is what has us disillusioned as adults. We think the gifts, talents, resources, “blessings” and growth were all bequeathed to us to give us a full life… to help us “pump harder” to gain more joy in life. When life itself is hidden in Christ, in His very nature. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b). And when you think you need to be more like Jesus, you do, but you can’t do it. Behavior modification to be more like Jesus, adapting His principles is just making more laws and rules on yourself to generate happiness. Fatigue. We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ…by Christ. We can do NOTHING apart from Him. Even the good things He wants us to do for others. We cannot do it. We are nothing without Him.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…”(John 15:1-8)
When someone is pushing you the whole time, you can relax and enjoy the ride with no fatigue. The pressure to perform is off of you. He does it all. We participate. You encounter rest and enjoyment, all in the safety of a man who does not grow tired or weary of pushing you and sustaining you. You see, when you stay on the swing and ask your daddy to come push you, your circumstance doesn’t change nor does the goal of swinging change. The force and source of momentum changes. It’s no longer in your strength, it’s in His. That’s how an afternoon on the swings becomes a lifestyle. The highs- the lows- the death- the disease- the mountains-the valleys- the joys- the excitement all of it, we are guided by His hand. And we know that no one can snatch us from His hand. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29).
We are the only ones who can alter our experience on the swing set of life. We can take control and start pumping again, but when we burnout He will still be there ready to push and sustain you. We will face ups and downs, but will we rely on ourselves to get out of the lows? Or will we trust the mighty hand of God and His strength?
An afternoon on the swings can become your lifestyle as well, when you fully surrender your own strength. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
PS: Next episode of Write it Down will be out in 9 Days!! December 1st Episode 003 will drop. It’s a good one 😉 Follow @widpod for more updates!