The Spirituality of Play
We have a little dog who doesn’t know that the world isn’t about play. She is part Jack Russell terrier which means that she is super hyper, all the time. If you tied her to a sled, I am pretty sure she could pull four times her body weight by shear will power. But, she only weighs 12 pounds so we don’t know how to test that theory. She barks at the electric sweeper we use on the hardwood floors. She takes a toy outside with her whenever she needs to ‘use the facilities’. We have a nightly ritual that is affectionately known as “Crazy Dog”. In this game, all of the family is upstairs and the kids are usually in their beds when the dog suddenly spins a circle and then darts down the stairs. As she races back up, you are expected to be at the top of the stairs to clap your hands once, really loudly. Then she spins again and runs back down. She peels out on the wood floors of the first floor and flies back up the stairs. This game will continue for as long as you wait at the top to clap. If you choose to stop, she will simply chase her tail at top speeds. She lives to play.
The beginning of summertime is always both glorious and difficult. After nine grueling months of homework, tests, and strict schedules, freedom can be a confounding thing. The first impulse my kids exhibit is to sit numbly in front of a TV. I only allow this to go on for about a weekend. Then, we begin the work of learning to play again. Yes, the work. It takes work to begin to remember how to play. My children resist at first.
“We have to play outside for a WHOLE hour?”
“I don’t know what to draw with sidewalk chalk!”
But slowly, surely it starts to come back to them: the beauty of time to follow their soul toward joy and beauty, the gift of learning about what you love, the freedom to move all day long.
When was the last time you, as an adult, played? When did you allow joy to lead your activity without worry for who was watching or a to-do list? When did you last run because it felt good to pump your legs? When did you draw or color for the beauty of chalk on your hands? When did you read a book you liked? God is in each of these things. When we are at play, we are nearest to our child-like selves. We lose our inhibitions and encounter the Kingdom with wide-eyed joy. Play today. Just for a minute…splash in some water sprinklers or toss around a baseball. Pick wildflowers. Chase butterflies. Play beach volleyball. Build a sandcastle. However you do it, play!