Learning from a Backyard Game

We're still waiting for spring weather to arrive here. The past week has been chilly and gloomy. Yesterday afternoon, we saw a sliver of sun, and my girls talked me into heading outside to play a game of Spud with them.

Spud is a simple game. Everyone gets a number. One person throws the ball up in the air and calls a number. That person chases the ball. Everyone else tries to get as far away from the ball as possible. When the person whose number was called has the ball in her hands, she yells Spud. She can then take three giant steps toward someone and throw the ball. If the ball hits the person she threw it at, that person gets a letter. If it misses, the person who threw the ball gets the letter. The person who gets the letter throws the ball the next time. When you have enough letters to spell SPUD, you're out. Last person standing wins.

By the time our game was over, we had one split and bruised knee, two girls who were mad at each other, several accusations of cheating and one child in tears because she got out. Probably not the most successful game I've ever played with my kids.

Life is like that game of Spud. Some days leave us battered and bruised and shaking our heads. Sometimes our kids do things that defy explanation, like the shouting match my youngest got into with one of the neighbor girls during our game. She knows better, but in the heat of the moment, she didn't care. Neither did her friend.

Sometimes life throws things into our path that knock us down -- like the rock one of the neighbor girls tripped over that caused her to split open her knee. We end up bloody and bruised and watching life from the sidelines because it hurts too much to play the game.

And sometimes life disappoints us, and all we want to do is sit in the corner and cry -- like my ultra-competitive older daughter when she got her last letter in the game. It's tough to find our smile and see the good in the situation. It's much easier to sit and sulk.

But, you know what? There's always something to be learned in the missed opportunity, the disappointment and the blood and bruises. My younger daughter and her friend were pulled aside and given the opportunity to think about their actions and how they want to be treated. The neighbor who hurt her knee got a chance to sit and watch the game and play referee, which gave her the opportunity to practice fairness. My older daughter got a lesson in sportsmanship to turn her pout about losing into a smile over playing the game.

If we take the time with our kids in the midst of the hurt and disappointments in life to help them find the lessons, we teach them to look for the good in the middle of the bad. We teach them that everything in life is an opportunity to learn something.

Jesus often did this with His disciples. In the midst of the soldiers coming to take Him to His death, He took a moment to teach. When one of his disciples cut off the ear of one of the soldiers, Jesus healed the ear and said to his disciples, "“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

Despite the horrible circumstances, Jesus didn't pass up one last chance to teach His disciples. He could have been focused on His fate. Instead He was focused on making sure His disciples understood what was happening.
We want to be like Jesus. No matter how big the hurt and disappointment of the day, the goal is to always be teaching and pointing our kids toward Jesus -- even when life beats us and our kids down.

The best thing about a day full of hurt and disappointment is that it has an end. Tomorrow is coming, and that day is a clean slate. It's a chance to try again and get it right. It's an opportunity to ask God to help us not stumble in the same places that we stumbled today.

So, take the time to teach your kids in the moments of hurt, anger and disappointment. The lessons they learn in those moments are some of the most valuable you can teach.