© 2012 John Casimir O'Keefe

Sandbox Theology

Way back in 1989 (I think I am showing my age) Robert Fulghum wrote a great book entitled, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. I remember reading the book after I graduated with my undergrad degree in Business Administration from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (by the way, that is how you can tell if someone actually went to UNLV, because they use the “at Las Vegas” and not “of Las Vegas”). It was a good book, and I learned a great deal from it. Yet, I always thought there was something missing, something just seemed a bit off – not in a bad way, but in a “time frame” way. You see, I thought that the things I learned before kindergarten mattered the most. The things that matter the most to me I learned while I was playing in the sandbox.

For me, the sandbox was the place where I learned a great deal to prepare me for life, for my walk in faith. The sandbox was the great social equalizer because in the sandbox all kids were equal. Now, at the time I had no idea that those simple lessons would be so valuable to my life, but over time I have come to center a great deal of what I think, believe, live and focus on with what I learned back then.

Days before kindergarten, days long before college, seminary or my doctoral studies. Days long before my very first book, or even before I learned to write. Days defined by grainy Polaroid pictures taken by grandparents looking to record memories. Days when adults wore plaid pants, plat-formed shoes and feathered haircuts. My life was formed in days when kids played together without all the social garbage we carry, a time long before we accepted the bigotry our parents and other adults put into our heads or defined doctrine and dogma of the Church. Long before we cared about gender, identity, cloths, color, religion, culture, language or anything else we think is important today. A time when a piece of wood could be transformed into a mega bulldozer or a simple red toy shovel could magically become a dump truck. A time when you were able to build a whole kingdom of sandcastles with an ice cream pop stick, a red toy shovel, a few twigs and some friends. A time when castles and dragons were real, and anyone (regardless of gender) could be a knight, king, prince or princess.

They were magical times, and times we as a Church should hold dear. Jesus tells us that having the faith of a child is important. I am of the mind that having the faith of a child is so central to how we walk, act and dance in our relationship with God and others that without it, we are lost. I believe that those of us who claim to have a “mature faith” should see that maturity as becoming more child-like. To remembrance the idea we learned at the sandbox. So I figured I would share with you some key points of what I am calling “Sandbox Theology.”

Key Teachings in Sandbox Theology:

Never Throw Sand In Other Kids Faces: This is the first rule of sandbox; never throw dirt in the face of another kid. Too many of us like to throw sand in the faces of others. We get angry, defend territory, possessions, theology, and structure or because we are just mean. It does not matter why; we simply throw sand in the faces of others. Kids who throw sand at other kids in the sandbox are called bullies, and bullies were never fun to play with. Many in the church today like throwing sand in the faces of others. They enjoy seeing others cry and their faces covered with sand.

Never Eat Stuff You Find In The Sand: Sometimes there are little surprises in the sandbox that as a kid you naturally desire to taste. But if there is one thing I learned firsthand it was to never eat anything you find in a sandbox. The church is filled with those little surprises no one should eat – hate, distrust, arrogance, pride, control, exclusion and so much more. When we find them we are tempted to eat them, but we need to remember that eating things we find in the sandbox can cause us to get sick.

Never Destroy Another Kids Sandcastle: No matter what you may think of another kids sandcastle, never destroy it because it is their expression of a sandcastle. One thing you quickly learn is that everyone builds a sandcastle different. In the church we have people building sandcastles based on what they think the Divine is sharing with them, but others in the sandbox think their sandcastle is better so they set out to destroy other sandcastles. If there is one thing I learned about having a bunch of different kinds of sandcastles in the sandbox is that it makes for one very cool kingdom.

Sandbox Toys Are For Sharing: No one in the sandbox owns or controls all the toys, the toys in the sandbox are communal property; they belong to every child that plays in the sandbox. Even if you think the toy is yours, once it enters the sandbox it is a communal toy. The idea of “mine” is not something that finds a home in the sandbox.

Always Invite Other Kids To The Sandbox: The sandbox was always a fun place and we always wanted more kids to play with us, so we would invite others to play. If we saw a new kid in the park, we always extended an invitation to join in and pay with us.

Parents Stayed Out of Any Conflict: On occasion you might here a parent say, “Play nice” but other than that, they stayed out of the sandbox. Conflict in the sandbox is always handled by the kids in the sandbox – right or wrong, good or bad – the kids in the sandbox handled the issues that came-up.

Boys And Girls Are Equal In The Sandbox: It did not matter if you were a boy or a girl, in the sandbox everyone was equal. We were too young to grasp the idea that “you are a girl and I am a boy” – we just played. Roles were not defined, gender was not an issue and if it did come-up it was always settled with an “it does not matter, let’s play” – and we just got to playing.

The sandbox was fun, I always looked forward to playing in the sandbox. The best times I can remember from those days was when there were a ton of kids in the sandbox – all kinds of kids, from all walks of life – playing, laughing, arguing, making-up, and most of all, liking each other.

Imagine if our Churches were more like sandboxes?

One Comment

  1. judy
    Posted 2012/01/13 at 1:32 pm | #

    22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

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