Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stunted in Suburbia


I've been in this phase lately, a phase that has me wondering, "Just how stunted really are my children for not having an 'explorable' backyard?" (Cement and dirt aren't cutting it.)

Like I wonder if psychological studies will one day reveal the travesty of it all. Children who have grown up in restricted environments - places where they have not been free to roam and poke sticks in murky ponds - will develop a disdain for the color green. Or some oddly correlated outcome, ranging from "so what, you don't like green things" to bigger stuff like robbing banks. (Bank robbery - my brain's default when I think of the atrocities of mankind.)

On the brighter side, this comedian on TV last night talked about growing up in the ghetto. He said, "Our basketball hoop was a rib cage, a RIB CAGE!" So, there's that. We've got that going for us - no rib cage basketball hoops around these parts.

But still, I find myself over-exaggerating things country folks might experience on a daily basis. Things in nature. Things that make you feel alive. Like somehow it's one of God's favorite ways of connecting with us, and we Parkers are missing out.

Take the beauty of a sunset... I'll force my kids to look: "See! See how the sky is super pretty over there behind the Chevron gas station, just above the strip mall?"

Or get extra giddy because a butterfly decided to land on something in OUR yard - the dog bowl, the trash can, the night blooming jasmine I hoped would make my patio smell like a fairyland, but hasn't yet.

Sure, there are wilderness vacations we can take (and DO take to the redwoods each year) to help offset any feelings of being too fenced-in. And go right ahead, remind me of our two years in Alabama where we had a backyard with deer and woods and trails. But is two years enough to keep my kids from someday seeking stunted-in-suburbia therapy?

It's all stuff that's been on my mind. And I can feel it wearing on me because, just this morning, I found myself encouraging my daughters over something they discovered, over something I would normally object to.

They found a mouse.

And it went from a simple "Hobo (the cat) has caught a mouse!" all the way to "We put it in a Nike shoe box with cotton balls and cantaloupe chunks and googled it and found out that boy mice have puffy butts and girl mice have skinny butts and since its butt is small we named her Charlotte."

As horrid as that may sound, did my daughters just have themselves a little adventure? Do mice count? Does that mean we have an explorable backyard after all? Are they suddenly connecting with God better? Has hope indeed sprung?

An old 17th century quote says: "You are seeking for secret ways of belonging to God, but there is only one: making use of whatever God offers you."

Turns out this is the life God has offered my family and me. And it's a good one. I mean, someone's gotta live in this house! And as Pastor Craig Barnes puts it, coveting a different life - no matter how many butterflies land in their yard - is like "living out of your neighbor's house." (But rib cage hoops I could always do without.)

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