I have a confession to make: Children’s parties scare me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and friends. And I love their children. But I will avoid their parties at all costs.
20 children all experiencing some level of a sugar-high and over-stimulation are gathered together in tight quarters for a couple of hours. They are jumping up and down. They are screaming. One kid is having a meltdown. Another kid is yelling for their Mommy. One time, I watched a boy just run around in a circle for 3 minutes straight before collapsing to the ground and entering into a sugar coma.
When I am at these parties, I can’t help but think the only difference between this birthday celebration and what the media would label a ‘public riot’ is that some of these humans are not yet potty-trained.
Maybe it’s because I read Lord of the Flies in school, but at these parties I start counting the ratio of children to parents in the room. And if the math doesn’t add up, I don’t want to stay very long. There could be a preschool uprising at any moment, and I do not want to be around to see it happen.
Of course, none of this seems to faze parents in the slightest. They aren’t concerned by the potential dangers associated with these fructose-syrup-fueled-minors running around. The chaos is simply white noise to them. They are war heroes in a battle zone, and I, a mere civilian. I know my best chance of survival is to stay close to the professionals, and act interested in conversations about bedtime rituals and potty training tactics and the latest research on child development and the impact organic food has on their ability to learn. I am well aware I have nothing to contribute to the dialogue, but I am protected and that is what matters.
Recently at a kid’s party, while hanging within the safe zone of a parental herd, I observed a group of children playing musical chairs. And what I saw fascinated me.
The 6 year olds were circling around a row of chairs, smiling and giggling while listening to some upbeat pop tune. Everything was happy-go-lucky for these kids, that is, until the music stopped. Then the gloves came off, and kids raced, pushed and shoved to make sure they got a seat. They knew there weren’t enough for everyone, and they were going to do whatever they needed to do to get a seat.
And while watching a little boy knock his best friend off a plastic chair it suddenly occurred to me: we never really stop playing the game of musical chairs, do we?
Maybe we aren’t circling plastic chairs in someone’s backyard anymore, but we are still circling… circling the popularity we dreamed of or that special someone we are meant to be with or that certain amount of success that will validate all our hard work or that thrilling new opportunity that will give our life a sense of meaning.
Whether the seat takes on the form of money or popularity or a relationship or respect or power, we need that seat. And we may act like life is a fun stroll, but when push comes to shove; we’ll do whatever it takes to get our seat. We’ll work for the seat, compromise for the seat, change our image for the seat, protect the seat, push someone else off the seat if need be. If life has taught us anything, it’s that no one’s going to hand us that seat. We got to fight for it. And if we don’t, we lose.
We get the seat, or we don’t, but do we really win either way? Maybe all this circling is why we develop anxiety disorders or secretly battle depression or find ourselves addicted to alcohol or pornography or we run from commitment or crack under pressure or gravitate from one unhealthy relationship to the next or continually want what we don’t have. I guess the problem with life becoming one long game of musical chairs, is that for all our busyness and movement, we actually never get anywhere.
The never-ending game of musical chairs is really a pursuit of significance. That’s the seat we are all after. We all need to know there’s a purpose to our lives, a divine design designated for destiny. We need to know our lives matter not just in the inspirational quote, motivational speaker way in which everyone matters because all humans matter. We need to know we matter in the up close and personal way, the way that says, “I see you for you. I know you, really know you, and with all that knowing, I am convinced to my very core that you matter.”
In John 4, Jesus has a conversation with a woman at a well. This woman has experienced pain, heartbreak and isolation. Life hasn’t been easy for her, and she’s simply trying to the make the most of the little that she has. She’s also not exactly the kind of person a respectable man would be caught conversing with, and yet Jesus willingly strikes up a conversation with her. Their talk messes with her and all her preconceived notions about God, about life, about her future. She runs back to her village to tell everyone she can about her one encounter with the Savior. And the thing she chooses to highlight from the conversation is simply this, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?”
Jesus didn’t heal the sick before her eyes. He didn’t cast out a demon before her. He didn’t raise the dead to life. He simply knew her and accepted her. And for her, that was the greatest miracle of all.
She found her seat that day. Jesus had given her the significance she had been circling her entire life.
We serve a Savior who, yes, does the miraculous and the humanly impossible. He conquered death and the grave, and Hell retreats at the very mention of His Name. There are no limits to what God can and will do in our lives. But there will never be a greater miracle to be experienced than to simply know that through Jesus we are loved and accepted by God.
Jesus is the One who says to each of us: “I know you. Like really know you. I knew you before you were even the size of a peanut growing in your mother’s womb. I know your happiest moments and your deepest sorrows. I know your greatest hopes and secret fears. I know how you’ve loved and been loved, and how you’ve hurt and been hurt. I know the spoken and the unspoken, the public and the private. I know your past. I know your present. And I know the great plans I have prepared for you in the future. I know you. And I love you.”
Jesus offers us unwavering significance that we cannot earn and that no one else could ever give us. No hustling, no pushing, no shoving, no manipulating, no performing for.
It’s the seat He freely gives each of us. And it’s the seat He’s saved just for you.
Don’t get caught in the trap of circling around what has already been given to you. Take a seat, and stay put. Sit in the significance. Rest in the grace. Recline in the love. Lounge in the peace that comes in knowing that you matter to God.