This post, and the special picture at the bottom are for my Dad. Thanks for being in my corner!

I was a really puny kid. Almost always the smallest in the class. On picture day, they lined us up according to height, shortest to tallest, and I always went first and held up the little sign with the teacher’s name and the date. Most of the time I liked being little — it made me feel special. But on one particular day, let’s just say it wasn’t to my advantage.

There was a game we used to play on the playground called Four Square. You took turns in one of the four squares, bouncing the ball to a different square and hoping the next person couldn’t return it. You advanced through each square to the first square, the square where you served the ball, and hoped to stay there for as long as possible. The kids who weren’t in one of the four squares usually just stood in a queue/line and waited by the last square for their turn, when someone else “got out.”

On one particular day, I was about ten years old at the time, one of the other girls in the class let’s call her Janet decided I had skipped her in line, and she was upset with me about it. I most certainly had not skipped Janet, but she was upset anyway. It’s important to remember that I was a pipsqueak and easy to pick on. Janet called another girl over to help “solve” the problem. Let’s call her Mary Sue. Now this is to the best of my rememberance what went down. Mind you I was ten…this isn’t an exact play by play.

Janet: “Mary Sue, come on over here! Caroline skipped me in the line.”

Mary Sue came over. She was only a little older, but significantly bigger than me. I was a pipsqueak, remember?!

Janet: “Come hold Caroline’s arms down so I can kick her.”

At this point I am really concerned. I don’t know what to do. I’m about to be backed into a corner by a kid that’s much bigger than me, so that another kid can kick me. And unjustly so!  I start to feel hot and nervous and my heart is racing.

Mary Sue comes over and holds my arms to my sides. I am terrified and by now my heart is pounding out of my chest — I don’t want to be kicked!!

And then something happened even I didn’t expect. In the heat of the moment, backed into a corner, threatened to have the mess kicked out of me, my playground survival instincts kicked in. It’s like I can’t even remember it. But when the dust cleared, and the moment had passed, I had not been kicked. Not even once.

Why not, Caroline? How did you get out of it?

When all the chips were down, my arms held to my sides, and my legs too short to deliver a kick, I bit Mary Sue.

And though I can’t remember it, I have a feeling that when the playground survival instinct kicked in, it wasn’t just a little bite. I mean to tell you I bit her.

I only vaguely remember having the chance to tell my side of the story to the teacher. I know my Mom was informed. Mary Sue’s Mom worked at our school, and she decided to take Mary Sue to the doctor for a shot. It was not my favourite elementary school experience, to say the least.

That evening when I was home from school, I was a little worried. My Mom didn’t say much about it, but I was afraid my Dad was going to be mad at me. We hadn’t really talked about it and I didn’t know if we were going to.

We were watching TV after dinner when the phone rang.  It was Mary Sue’s Mom. Let’s call her Diane. My Dad answered.

I don’t know exactly what Diane said to my Dad. I guess she told him I should be punished. Maybe she told him we should pay for the shot. Maybe she just wanted to make sure he knew what I’d done and that I had been appropriately disciplined.

I sat and listened, a little fearful of what was going to happen when my Dad put down the phone. But then, I heard some of the most beautiful words I can remember out of my Dad’s mouth when I was a kid. He interrupted Diane and said,

“D*** it, Diane! Your kid is twice the size of my kid! If something like this happens again, I would tell her to do it again!”

I am pretty sure the conversation ended shortly after that.

That was the sweet and perfect voice of vindication and redemption. It meant the world to me that my Dad understood, and that he had my back. I was embarassed by what had happened. I was afraid he wouldn’t understand, and I was afraid I was going to be punished when I had only been trying to defend myself.  And I think something a lot of kids really long for, in a world where they are constantly told what to do, to think and to say, is some kind of justice — for things to be fair.

When I knew my Dad understood what had happened, and when I knew he was on my side, it was such a sweet feeling of vindication. I wasn’t afraid of going back to school the next day. I wasn’t going to be embarassed that I was ten years old and I bit someone. My Dad was in my corner, and in that moment, that was what I really needed to know.

Today I think I sometimes forget about the God who’s in my corner. He is the God who showed up on the playground of this earth, in the name of love, in the name of justice, and with the purpose of redemption. I am sometimes afraid that He is a God who cannot understand what I’m walking through, and is therefore disappointed and upset with me when things don’t happen the way they should. But God came near. He can identify with our struggles. He walked through thirty-some years in a world full of unkind and unfair. Even when we do make mistakes, He understands and He forgives.

And He is in your corner. He wants you to know that even if things don’t go the way they should, He still loves you. You’re still acceptable. You don’t have to be embarassed or ashamed of the things that have happened — by your own hand, your own decisions and actions, or by someone else’s. And even when you are completely in the wrong — utterly, and obviously way off base — He extends forgiveness, mercy, grace. And the pardon for those actions, the hall pass to escape the punishment — paid for in full by Jesus on the cross.

The dignity that there is in our free will — the dignity that we get to be on the playground of life and choose fairness, choose justice, choose love and choose the ways of God — in itself is such a beautiful redemption.

What I’ve learned since that day on the playground is that our real fight in this world is not against flesh and blood, or the other people on the playground. You have a very real enemy that does not want to see you walk in the plans and purposes God created you for. His voice will bring discouragement, doubt, and feelings of defeat your way. But God is in your corner. He understands the battles you’re facing. And He has strength for you, so that no matter what comes your way, you can keep fighting the good fight. You can keep moving forward.

Knowing that you are loveable, redeemable, understood and loved — knowing that God is for you and is not waiting in the wings eager to punish you — really knowing that will change the game for you. It’ll change the rules for you. It’ll rock the playground of your life.

“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 31 – 32, 38-39

We love this little boy so much. And we passionately long to see him walk in the plans he was created for. Do you know — really know — that no matter what you’ve done, the God of the universe feels that way about you?