I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been whooped for playing Devil In The Ditch. It was my favorite game to play at church. Now before you think that I’ve been involved in the occult, let me explain the rules of this sinister sounding game. If you walked out of the front door of our church, turned left and walked about twenty five feet, you would come upon a ditch running parallel with the road for the full length of the church property. This was “The Ditch”. At the back of the church property it was shallow and got deeper as it reached the front where it made a sharp angle in the fork of the road. At it’s deepest, the ditch was about three feet deep. The rules of the game were fairly simple, whoever was in the ditch was the devil, everyone else had to jump the ditch without being tagged by the devil. If you were tagged, you were the new devil.
It was great fun. Part of the fun was knowing that you weren’t supposed to be playing in the ditch, namely because it was probably the most dangerous thing that we could have done. That’s the way with people, the more dangerous and risky, the more likely we’ll engage in it and call it fun. The other part of the fun was having to sneak to do it. Sneaking was pretty easy though, you know how parents get to talking to everybody after church. We had better chances of getting to play Devil In The Ditch if we didn’t stay inside and pester the adults. As long as we weren’t whining and interrupting conversations they didn’t miss us. It wouldn’t be until the first crybaby ran inside to complain to their parents that someone was cheating, or that they didn’t want to be the devil, or that they had sprained an ankle, that all of the parents would come barreling out of the air conditioned church into the sweltering heat to retrieve their miscreant children who had been busy ruining their Sunday clothes in the filthy ditch. Punishment would be doled out heartily to some children and sparingly to others, and it seems like not at all to some of the worst offenders.
As children we never gave a single thought to how dangerous this game was, we were only concerned about having fun. Since the ditch was about a foot from the road, any one of us could have been hit by a car. Although this was highly unlikely because there was hardly any traffic on that road. Aside from getting grass stains and mud all over our church clothes, we could have easily broken a limb as we tried to jump the ditch, which was quite wide in the deeper places. Fortunately, I don’t remember any major injuries sustained while engaging in this game.
After more than a decade in Youth Ministry, I’ve noticed that the thrill of the dangerous doesn’t go away as we get older. Now that we’re all grown, I doubt we are tempted to ruin our church clothes playing a silly game like Devil in the Ditch. But the games that we are tempted to play as adults basically all have the same concept as Devil in the Ditch. But the adult version is far more dangerous.