The Rev. Clay Smith: The playground


We took my grandson to the playground not too long ago. Because of my recent surgery, I could not chase him around the playground. His parents would do the chasing; I did the watching.

If you are depressed, I recommend you visit a playground on a Saturday morning. It is hard to believe children can have that much energy on the weekend. They were climbing on, over and under all the playground equipment while their parents sipped at their Starbucks. There was laughter and cries of "Mama, watch this!" The kids took turns; there was no shoving or pushing other kids out of the way. One little boy fell down; an older girl stopped her play to help him up.

One set of grandparents chased a little girl around for an hour. They looked tired. The little girl did not. She ran from slide to slide, from climbing rope to ladders. Another couple, who I judged to be older parents, pursued their two little girls. One was the tomboy; the older daughter wore a dress but soon put away her ladylike behavior to run after her sister.

I've always admired the way kids can make friends so fast. "You want to swing? I want to swing, too! Let's be friends." There was no inquiry about which church they went to or who they voted for. It was just, "Let's be friends."

Two or three kids simply played in the wood chips. They seemed fascinated by the sticks and leaves. Where I saw something that needed to be raked, they saw objects of awe. Another little boy hung on the fence that enclosed the dog park. No climbing or running for him; he was taking in all the dogs playing and chasing tennis balls. His dad stood behind him, just looking at his son, enjoying his canine fascination.

Sometimes the kids would wear out for a minute. They would amble over to mom, get a snack or a drink from a backpack and then bound off again. One girl took her Cheetos bag up to the highest spot on the slide and then proceeded to polish off the bag. I'm not sure if the height enhanced the taste or if she was protecting her treasure from her siblings.

None of the kids seemed worried about the economy, the war in Ukraine or the increasing military might of China. Those worries were left to the adults. The kids ran from place to place, doing whatever caught their fancy.

In the midst of all this was my grandson, the most adorable of all the kids (naturally). I could not help but grin at him. It was amazing to see him figure things out, which muscles to move to get where he needed to go. He is the most amazing child. I think I smiled for a solid hour, just looking at him and taking in all the scenes around him.

I am often asked what heaven is like. Some people imagine it as a big family reunion. The Bible does not describe it that way. The main event of heaven is not reuniting with your loved ones; it is meeting Jesus. In heaven, we will finally understand the depth of his love and the full extent of his grace. That is why we will praise him.

Heaven is also not full of leisure activities. We will not spend our time golfing or fishing. We will spend time marveling at how good our Heavenly Father is.

But as I surveyed the playground, I wondered if heaven might be a little like the playground. Maybe we will experience an indescribable joy of being secure, of being safe, of knowing our Heavenly Father has taken care of all our anxieties and has defeated our greatest enemies. Maybe our Heavenly Father will watch his children play while he smiles upon them, simply delighting in them.

Jesus said unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Scholars speculate about what Jesus meant, but I don't think they were at a playground when they wrote their commentaries. Perhaps Jesus meant to tell us we need to learn to accept our Heavenly Father's love and forgiveness and discover how much our Heavenly Father smiles as he watches us.

I think the children have something to teach us: Live life in the security of your Heavenly Father, for he delights in you. Maybe you should visit a playground and imagine how God adores you like a grandfather adores his grandson.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at