My Chuck E. Cheese Life
Several years ago, when my kids were little, I found myself at Chuck E. Cheese one day. I didn’t know when I left that morning what a momentous day this was going to be. It was the first time my kids didn’t need me to follow them around. My youngest could play the games without help. This was LIFE CHANGING because I had never sat down at Chuck E. Cheese before.
Had I known what a momentous day it would be, I would have brought something with me to do or read. Our phones back then weren’t so smart and only made phone calls. I would have brought a People magazine or maybe a word search puzzle book.
So I looked in my purse to see what I had. All I had to read was this Henri Nowen book.
Here I was at Chuck-E-Cheese and this is what I had to read. A book about prayer, wisdom and silence.
I looked around me and saw colorful tubes overhead where kids are crawling around along with some poor mom whose children won’t come down. I saw lights flashing and movement everywhere around me.
Weird animatronic singing animals on one side of the room started moving. It was terrifying and a little creepy. Chuck E. Cheese is usually busy, because for kids this is what heaven will be like. So there were children everywhere.
Bells were ringing, whistles were going off, music was playing, and every game had its own soundtrack. I could hear shooting, racecars, and goofy animal noises.
I saw one child who was so excited he couldn’t stop screaming.
Then there were the kids who had their expectations dashed. When you go to Chuck E. Cheese and you are five years old, your expectations are that this will be the best day of your life. It’s hard for them when they don’t win the game or someone else got to go first or for whatever reason they just could not whack that mole.
So I was faced with a decision. Do I even try?
Do I try to get something out of this book about solitude and silence in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese? Or should I just clean out my purse or organize my wallet? I had to laugh, the contrast was so absurd.
And then it occurred to me that even when the literal noise died down, I had a brain full of noisy voices. Bouncing around in my head were demanding voices, discouraging words, a very unreasonable to-do list, worries, concerns, and self-recriminations. I heard things like
· Don’t forget…
· How could you…
· Why aren’t you more…
· Shouldn’t you be…
· What kind of person does that?
· I have so much to do…
· Am I a good mom?
Maybe you can relate to having a full brain like that. Even if your life isn’t literally noisy, the demands we put on ourselves and the worries we bear can keep our brains spinning and noisy.
At Christmas time, I think our brains get even louder. We have unhappy, crying, demanding voices yelling at us. The expectations of what we will accomplish in the month of December are unreal.
So there I am at Chuck-E-Cheese and I decided I’d try to read the book.
Those of you who know me know that my favorite verse is Psalm 31:8.
I absolutely believe in my head that God is offering me a peaceful, joyful, hope-filled place in which to exist, a spacious place.
But the reality of my life is that I don’t feel like I am in a spacious place. There is a disconnect between what I know to be true in my head and what I feel is true in my heart.
I find myself frazzled, anxious, pushed, victimized, alone, annoyed, and oh so tired. Maybe you feel that way too. And it’s worse at Christmas time.
Do you believe God wants you to experience a spacious place?
How much more does he want that for us at Christmas time?
Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
Can we really find joy and peace and overflowing hope amid our Chuck E. Cheese lives?
I believe God wants that for us.
So, what did I learn from this book I was reading at Chuck E. Cheese? Nowen is talking about prayer of the heart, spending time in prayer as a way to allow God to transform us.
He says, “Temptations and struggles will remain to the end or lives, but with a pure heart we will be restful even in the midst of a restless existence.” The Way of the Heart
Amazing! What a perfect reassurance in the middle of all that chaos.
I have one practical idea for you, a suggestion to make a change this year and find more time for Jesus. Get out some paper and colored markers and do a brain dump. Empty your head onto the paper. Write down every task, idea, event. Even write down what the annoying voices are saying. When you see them on paper it may be easier to calm them.
Here is mine. This is actually a pretty fair representation of what it feels like in my brain.
Then I want to challenge you to find five things to cross off. They can be things you delegate, things you skip, or voices you silence. Cross them off and let them go.
Here is what my brain dump looked like after I found some things to cross off. The items highlighted in orange don’t have to happen in December. About half my brain was occupied with things that don’t have to happen now.
The blue items in corner are the annoying voices that no longer have permission to reside in my brain.
The yellow items I am giving myself permission to make optional this year. My world will not fall apart if they don’t happen.
And the items highlighted in green are the ones I am not doing this year!
When I look at this, I feel like a can breathe easier. Maybe a joyful, peaceful, hope-filled Christmas is possible. Then I can have the space to spend time with God and relish the gift wrapped in hope he is offering this Christmas.
Imagine what would happen if everyone reading this grew closer to God this Christmas. What an impact we could have on our friends, families, coworkers, and ministry partners. I am praying that you will allow God to draw you in this season.
What are you letting go this year? Let me know in the comments!