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The Floor Is Lava

Cuyler Black
Jun 17, 2020

Every kid is born with four instincts: to eat, to sleep, to defecate, and to play the game “The Floor is Lava”. I don’t know how all children around the globe pop out with instructions encoded in their brains on how to play it, but they do. None of them need to learn it the way, say, they need to be told how to play rock-paper-scissors, Monopoly, or every parent’s favorite: “Who can be quiet the longest?” Of course, it’s not until they’re three or four that “The Floor is Lava” downloads and begins to take over the child’s every available moment of play time. For those of you with children not yet at that stage, don’t worry. The obsession only lasts about five incredibly long years.

The game, of course, goes like this: The living room floor has been magically transformed into a seething, bubbling lake of lava. The only way to survive is to keep moving from furniture item to furniture item without touching the lava. One way to overcome gaps too wide to leap is to toss the sofa cushions onto the floor, which serve as scattered rocks to hop on. Any pillow, coffee table, couch, chair, or fortuitously positioned pet can be stood upon as a refuge from danger until a playmate attempts to occupy the same space and bumps or shoves you into the liquid inferno, where skin and bones melt instantly as you sink to your death in an agonizing incineration.


My seven-year old son is up for playing this game anytime. Thanks to “The Floor is Lava”, our living room furniture has been so mistreated it looks like it was all reclaimed from a gorilla enclosure.

But I’m okay with that. “The Floor is Lava” is just one example of the type of childhood enterprise that ignites (no pun intended) the God-given desire for adventure in every kid. I mean it— an adventurous spirit is flung into every human being at birth by the Creator. Look at babies. They’re naturally fearless. They’ll put anything in their mouths, pull anything off a shelf, climb up, over, into, and onto whatever they can … Exploring, adventuring … Parents obviously must do their best to protect little ones from truly dangerous situations— unlike, of course, that mom and dad who inspired the nursery rhyme Rock-a-bye Baby:

Mom: “Where’s the baby?”

Dad: “On the treetop.”

Mom: “What?”

Dad: “When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. I’m a genius! The wind up there will do all the work so we can get a good night’s sleep. And no way that bough’s gonna break.”

Mom: “I trust your judgment.”

Keeping kids safe and secure is a vital part of parenting, and teaching them caution is admirable— up to a certain point. Humans were made for adventure. As a child grows, that quality either flourishes or it doesn’t. That innate inclination to be a risk-taker gets encouraged or it gets dampened. In an impressionable young heart, that daring spirit can get fired up like a volcano or cooled down like a suppository in a snowman.

I want to raise my son to be a risk-taker. I want my boy to approach life with the same exhilarating audacity he brings to a game of “The Floor is Lava”— giving his all to make a hazardous leap, then another, experiencing the thrill of achieving something by risking something. These days, he’s merely “betting his life” that he can avoid plunging into “a sea of lava”. But the leap I really want him to take, the risk I really want him to make, is to gamble everything on God.

The Bible calls it living by faith. All the heroes in the Bible were gamblers. Ordinary people who risked greatly. They lived by faith.

There are smart bets and there are not-so-smart bets. I’ll teach my son that gambling money at a casino or on lottery tickets falls into the not-so-smart category. I’ll explain that Greed is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, along with Vanity, Envy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, and Bashful. Not sure why some of those are sins, but whatever. Anyway, the smart bet, I’ll tell him, is to gamble on God.

I’ll have done my job as a dad if my boy becomes that kind of gambler. Will he bet his life on his Heavenly Dad? Will he boldly trust God to guide him across life’s lava pits on the way to fulfilling the awesome adventure his Creator has planned for him?

He will if he listens to me.

Father knows bets.

If you need more laughter in your life, check out Cuyler's writing at cuylerblack.com... you'll be glad you did!