How one man is returning to the simplicity and honesty of childhood and creating an outdoor place of prayer.
Posted in , Jun 26, 2017
I grew up in a different time. My upbringing, in Cincinnati, Ohio, revolved around family and church (school ran a distant third). Though we lived a half hour’s drive from church, we made our way there most days in the week, for one thing or another (choir practice, Bible studies, etc.). On Sunday mornings we made the trip for Sunday school and “church” (worship service) and then again on Sunday evening for more “church.”
So Sunday afternoons provided an active (and mischievous, I’m told) boy like me the only opportunity for outdoor play between breakfast and bedtime. But there was a catch.
I was allowed to play outside on Sundays, but not in the front yard. My two older brothers say they remember no such rule, but it is clear in my memory. I could play only in our fenced backyard, which was my usual practice anyway.
Now, these many years later, I would love to pick my mother’s brain as to why front-yard playtime was verboten. Unfortunately, she died of breast cancer when I was 14 years old. But I have a theory. It is unrelated to some of the other household rules I grew up knowing, such as “no playing with ‘the devil’s cards’” (that is, a standard deck of playing cards, but only Old Maid, Rook, or Uno). And when we visited my paternal grandparents, “no playing with dice” (we played board games with a spinner to decide how many spaces we could move).
I think those rules were intended to help roguish kids like me avoid the dangers of gambling. But the “no playing in the front yard on Sunday” was different. I can only hypothesize, but I think it had more to do with my mother’s desire to make Sunday a special day, one that is unlike the other six days of the week—a day of worship, rest and quiet (for us and for our neighbors, I suppose). So confining the raucous redhead to the backyard does make some sense.
The memory makes me nostalgic—for a simpler time. Quieter. And, too, I suppose, more aware of God and His marvelous Creation.
So this summer I plan to try something new. I don’t live in that house with the tidy backyard any more, but I want to go back to playing in the backyard on Sundays—but with a difference. I want to make my backyard a place of prayer and communion with God and His Creation.
I think I’ll take my shoes off and walk in the grass. I may even lie down and gaze up at the clouds in the sky. I even hope to return a little to the simplicity and honesty of childhood and talk to God like the little boy who still plays somewhere, somewhere deep inside me.
So if it’s not raining on a Sunday afternoon this summer, why not join me in the backyard?