Have you ever watched someone play?
Over the past few weeks, I have had ample opportunity to watch my daughter play as I work from home. One of her favorite backyard games at the moment goes like this. First, she heads to her play house which stores all of her outside buckets and toy shovels. Then, she heads to the sandbox (which is really just a dirt box) and asks me to open it for her. Once open, she hoists herself over the edge, with her bucket and purple toy spoon in hand and sets to work filling up her blue bucket. As the game goes, she fills it up one or two scoops, hoists herself over the edge of the dirt box, walks to the garden, deposits the dirt from the bucket and then heads back to the dirt box to do it all over again. She is experiencing play, the blissful state of doing something for the joy of just doing it….Can you remember the last time you played?
In his book, God in My Everything, Ken Shigamatsu makes this observation,
“Adults are so busy, so preoccupied with our agendas and tasks, that we fail to enjoy the beauty right in front of our eyes. Children don’t need someone to tell them to enjoy life. They are naturally curious. They find what they like and they do it. But as we grow older, most of us begin to feel the pressure to be ‘productive.’ We feel guilty when we take time to enjoy something or stop to play. Most adults don’t even know what it means to play” (Pg. 140).
When I reflect on the busyness of my life through the fall and early winter of this past year, I can remember countless times when I wished life would just slow down so I could pray more, read more, play more. But now that it is here, I feel guilty about not being productive and busy….Are you with me?
You see, in the midst of our reality as we know it, we have a unique opportunity to re-establish our rhythms of life. As Christians, this includes solidifying our prayer, scripture reading and Sabbath rhythms, as well as exploring other rhythms we may not have had time for in the past. As a professional coach and missionary to those involved in sports, you would think play would come easy, but I too find myself challenged to add this into my life. Now, why is it important that we play?
Firstly, it reflects what we read in scripture. From the start we can see how God delighted in his creation in Genesis chapter 1. Ecclesiastes 3:4 states that God ordains, “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” We read in the Gospels how Jesus celebrated several days at weddings and feasts. Finally, speaking about God’s new creation in Zechariah 8:4-5 it reads, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.’” Creation, celebration, community are all aspects of play.
Secondly, it makes sense scientifically. In her book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown quotes the following observations from Dr. Stuart Brown, psychiatrist, clinical researcher and founder of the National Institute for Play:
- “If we want to live a life of meaning and contribution, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play. We have to let go of exhaustion, busyness and productivity as status symbols and measures of self-worth. We are impressing no one (Pg. 106, Dare to Lead)”
- “Play shapes our brain, fosters empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups and is at the core of creativity and innovation (Pg. 107, Dare to Lead).
- “The opposite of play is not work – the opposite of play is depression (Pg. 107, Dare to Lead).”
Not only does play reflect part of who we are spiritually, but is also reflects how we function physically, emotionally and relationally. Maybe you have heard the term “Recreation” used instead of “Play.” Have you ever noticed what happens when you split that word into its two parts Re-Creation? You see, in a world that has ground to a halt, we have the opportunity to Re-Create our selves, to establish rhythms that reflect who our Creator created us to be. As an athlete and coach, I love that play is part of that reflection.
So, here are a few practical suggestions for how you can incorporate play into your current reality:
- Think back to a favorite childhood memory and re-create it. For me, this would be playing with a soccer ball in the back yard, or digging a BIG HOLE in the garden.
- Weather permitting, take a walk outside and notice the playfulness with which God made creation…the trees, the leaves, clouds, birds, grass, flowers, insects and even humans.
- If you are an artist, try to capture a favorite picture or memory.
- If you are a musician, compose a song just because or just belt one out in the shower.
- If you are a parent, copy your kids, play a game or play a prank on them.
I want to finish with two more quotes from Ken Shigamatsu’s God in My Everything.
“Like honoring the Sabbath, we find that play yields its most valuable gifts to us when we think we can least afford to engage in it (Pg. 147).”
“We may think that expressing our delight – especially if we look silly – will make us lose our standing with others. But the experience of play, the pure joy of doing something we love, may actually help us build bridges to others (Pg. 149).”
How are you planning on playing this week? Feel free to share your thoughts below or share pictures of you and your family playing while tagging King Road’s social media.
As you find time to play, why not think about a story you’d like to share with the congregation during this time? Please submit stories to Leonard.