The new school year means the beginning of a new year of children’s ministry and the chance to break out my giant book of ice breaker games. I am a natural introvert, and, true to my contrarian ability to find some way to not quite fit the mold, I love ice breaker games. Like most introverts, I prefer quality over quantity in my friends. I have a really hard time with small talk, so I tend to dive in without the cursory, “How ’bout them Braves?” or, “Nice weather we’re having.” If I want to ask someone a question, no matter what it is, that’s what I lead with as a conversation starter. Apparently, some people find that to be off-putting; they like to warm up in a conversation before they jump into the deep end. (I know, I’m as shocked as you are that everyone is not exactly like me.) I can often tell you everything about a person’s emotional or mental status without ever knowing that they have a dog named Bob, they have blond hair, or that their favorite color is blue. I’m often surprised that I could skip this level of detail since those are the “easy” things to learn about people.
Ice breaker games, however, force an introvert like me to interact on a more surface level. I can learn that I have lots of little things in common with people along with knowing how and why they tick. It may not seem important to know anyone’s shoe size or favorite ice cream flavor, but it provides me with another way to connect with someone I might not be able to talk to otherwise. While I was leading English as a Second Language at church, I loved that our students embraced the ice breaker games because we learned that in spite of the obvious cultural differences in the American teachers, the Chinese students, the Hispanic students and the Iranian students, we often had a lot more in common than we would have imagined. Everyone has a favorite color; everyone had a favorite subject in school; everyone has a favorite food, and apparently pizza is a universal favorite, regardless of country of origin.
Ice breaker games remind me of some important things in my relationship with God, too. I tend to want everything to have meaning; my poor husband has been harassed on more than one occasion because I’m sure that when he sighed it meant something other than he needed to expel air. I do the same with God – pushing to find an answer – even when there is no reason to push. God made the sky blue and the grass green – it must mean something. It means the grass is green, and the sky is blue. While I’m tempted to always be looking for the deep end, it’s okay to spend time in the shallow end and remember the basics: God is good; God loves me; God has blessed me beyond measure. I can stop and tread there for a while before I go back to pondering the mysteries of faith and life.
If you have attended church for a long time, you have probably heard the warning that we can’t stay on the mountain; like Moses, we have to come down and re-join the rank and file. Life is what happens in the valley, and God wants us to experience abundant life. We need the mountain-top time to keep us focused on what’s important, but we can’t set up permanent camp at that altitude. If you have avoided church because you aren’t holy enough to even reach the mountain top, guess what? Neither are church members. That’s what God’s grace is for:
“23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:23-24
There’s an ice breaker – we all pretend to be assorted versions of perfect (perfect job, perfect mental health, perfect attitude, perfect marriage, perfect kids…) instead of being honest and admitting we need help climbing our assorted mountains. The good news is that as deep and wide and long as our troubles are, God’s love and grace are deeper and wider and longer and waiting for us to wade through the shallow end and dive in.