The small plastic balls of varying color bounced around inside the nets as small hands flailed, a few of the balls breaking free and rolling past our feet. My son of three, smiling away, crawled out of the balls and disappeared quickly into one of the tubes, as did many others.
People abound and pigeons galore, we looked away and chewed our burgers slowly, trying to keep the wind from carrying the fry bag away. Sprinkling salt into the puddle of ketchup. Talking about the weather, my job, and bills to be paid. Then a scream. It is my child’s scream.
Terror. He’s hurt. Perhaps twisted an ankle and fallen down a tube? A busted lip? In a fight with a larger child? Following the scream from outside we see his face through the clear plastic of a corner section.
The others had left and the maze had turned thick… dark, empty. He had probably circled once, maybe twice, with nothing familiar, the walls of the labyrinth impenetrable. Trapped with no way out.
We pointed out directions as we tried with calm voices to settle his heart, elephant tears rolling from his cheeks. As my wife walked to the tunnel entrance and hollered to provide direction, I couldn’t help but realize the silliness of it all.
A small laugh giggled its way up in spite of his tears and terror, and as he turned to follow the voice I wondered how he could be frightened at all. In the mind of my child it was the end, with no way out and no hope. And there was no one else around to help. His fate had been sealed by a colorful tube with a bubbly, convex lens through which he could see the outside world but never reach it.
Safety couldn’t have surrounded him more that day if it tried and the unnecessary screams were calmed in a short time. His tears and terror soon forgotten as he attacked another section of the playground. We settled back to dipping fries and I couldn’t stop laughing.
As a result of this encounter with terror and loss of hope, I wonder if in my most pitiful of states, my darkest of hours, in which all of my hope is gone and there seems no way out, if God is looking at me and wondering why I’ve lost all hope and given up. Why I am crying at all. Why I can’t just stop and listen.
God is whispering through that dark tunnel so I can find my way.
He is watching from very close by.
And my tears and terror will end soon enough.
And I wonder… no, I’m certain.
He is giggling all the while.