Last year, I took my 6-year-old to a nearby playground, one of the old-fashioned kind. No primary-colored plastic structures or bouncy rubber mats, it was all wood splinters and warped tire swings. Rickety ladders and fraying ropes lead to dark tunnels, inaccessible to anyone over four feet tall.

Most parents I know hate it. Our kids love it.

In this month's Atlantic, Hanna Rosin explores the potential virtues of such risky old playgrounds. She describes one extreme playground in Wales where children roll tires into a creek and build fires in a tin drum, all the while learning creative play and cause-and-effect. Rosin contrasts this to how "safe" playgrounds—with their predictably cushioned surfaces and sleek equipment—fail to challenge children, and, ultimately, discourage resilience.

Who doesn't want bold, creative, and confident kids? But, as they say, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

That day last year, my son lost his grip on a zip-line, dropped a few feet onto packed dirt, and broke his arm. We both cried. He cried right then and there. I cried later, after we had been to the pediatrician and the orthopedist, after they wrapped his arm in a lime green cast and he sat on the couch, holding it very still. I cried because my precious little boy was broken. And because maybe I had failed him.

At the moment he broke his arm, I was out of sight. I wasn't taking pictures of him with my phone or cheering for him. I wasn't waiting to catch him. I didn't hear him in the seconds he dangled. I didn't even pick him up when he fell. Instead, he came and found me, sitting on a bench, reading (wait for it) The Atlantic.

"Failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent," writes Rosin. "Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the '70s—walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap—are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting." Letting your first-grader break his arm on a dicey playground while you read a magazine? Epic mom fail.

So, I cried over that little arm wrapped tight and signed in Sharpie by his envious—envious!—brothers. The playground should have been safe. My son should have been safe. I should have kept him safe.

Rosin's article, titled online "The Overprotected Kid," is a fascinating critique of how modern parents, in their quest for parenting perfection, obsessively direct and monitor their children, even at play. And I resonated with her conclusions, not merely as a parent, but as a Christian.

Of course, parents do have responsibility to care for their children's wellbeing. The sixth commandment compels me to hold my children's hands in the parking lot, to forbid them from crossing the street on their own, and to strap them in their car seats even for a trip around the block. But hurts happen.

Rosin reminds us that complete safety is unrealistic. She points to multiple studies that failed to prove parental overprotection actually makes kids safer. She writes, "We can no more create a perfect environment for our children than we can create perfect children. To believe otherwise is a delusion and a harmful one…."

This finds its corollary in the pronouncement of Jesus: "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Trouble, for Christians, is not optional or avoidable or preventable. And, if they follow Christ, our children will not have a safe life.

As C.S. Lewis' Mr. Beaver told the children about Aslan: "Safe? . . . Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

Not only is protecting our kids from every trouble futile, it's also unhelpful. In uncertainty and neediness, in the absence of safety, God's goodness is often most evident.

Rosin talks a lot about "managing risk." In an interview for NPR, she said, "I think we have this assumption now that children cannot manage their own risks. That a child does not have the capacity to manage either a physical or an emotional risk unless we step in and manage it for them. But there's something a little bit unnatural about that. I think the process of growing up is the process of learning to manage those fears."

I cannot manage every risk for my children. But in managing some of their own, they will learn to depend on God. We can teach our kids the honest laments of the psalms, "How long, O Lord?" (Psalm 35:17). Life in this world hurts, God. We can teach them to look for his gracious answer—his comfort, his healing, his strength made perfect in weakness.

There was a man in Jesus' day who was hurt, too. He was blind, and the Pharisees wanted know, "Who sinned, this man or his parents …?" Who failed to keep him safe? Jesus' answer is a reminder to parents at the playground, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

In other words, it's not about whose fault it is. It's not about the broken playground equipment or the failed helicopter parents. Obsessing over the blame is blinding us to how God is going to work.

Modern parents, open your eyes. That broken arm may be the thing that God uses to reveal himself to your children.

My kids will sometimes hang from that last rung of a playground ladder, asking me to catch them, and then—with happy surprise—land gently on ground that was really only inches away. On the playground, and everywhere else, God's solid goodness is nearer than we might think.

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