Pages Navigation Menu

Speaker, Writer, and Author of GodSpace

Why you need play as a spiritual practice

“Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Jesus, in Matthew 11:30)

Sunday, I sat on a porch swing under the shade of the deck, watching my 19 and 21 year olds rig our old scow with my husband, preparing for a Father’s Day sail across the lake.

27817_1472806825394_1390355330_1272921_2885934_n

I’m delighted to have both kids home for the summer, after our spacious nest season during the school year. Every moment with them feels like a gift, a joy. I keep reminding myself to hold this summer with open hands, not grasping, but marveling.

I keep reminding myself to live freely and lightly, to play. To be fully present in each moment of this fleeting but wonderful season.

In my book Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, I explore play as an aspect of Sabbath keeping. And I’ve written about it before, here on the blog, and on other sites like this one. Sabbath practice is not only about what we do not do (work), but also about what we choose to engage in—things that rest and refresh us. For our family, that includes time to just play at the lake, to eat good food while laughing with family, to go for a run or a hike, bake a pie, read a book, watch a sunset, sail, or whatever.

reflecting on the splendor of creation in Arches Natl. Park

reflecting on the splendor of creation in Arches Natl. Park

This summer, my workload is lighter than it was last year. That causes me some anxiety at times, truth be told. Being a freelancer means flexibility, but it also means you only earn money when you work. So writers must choose each day to focus on freedom, or fear. This summer, I have projects, but fewer than usual. I’m trying to frame that as “enough” and not “scarcity,” so that I can see it for the gift it is. This summer, both kids are home, so I want more free time, more family time. I’ve been handed that gift.

So I’m trying to do excellent work because I have time to, and also make time for playing.

trail run

Do you make play a habit? Is it part of your Sabbath practice? Do you even have a Sabbath practice? If not, play might be a great on-ramp for that.

What would it look like for you to carve out space for play? For rest? It may seem completely disconnected from what you label your spiritual life. But all of your life is spiritual, every moment. Dallas Willard once wrote that God is the most joyful being in the universe. If the goal of our faith is to imitate God, shouldn’t we seek experiences that bring us joy, and connect us with what the Bible calls “the joy of God ”?

I want to make time for play because play is a spiritual practice, much like prayer, or study, or serving, or solitude. Spiritual practices are simply things we do to create some space for God. They focus our mind and heart on God, redirecting our thoughts away from anxiety, and self-obsession.

The world has been heavy lately: the shooting in Charleston, the racial tension in our country, flooding and tornadoes and … Every moment, we have tragedy in our news feed. We don’t even have to wait for the evening news to fuel our anxiety. We carry it in our pockets 24-7.

Play doesn’t ignore or diminish the significance of these terrible events, or our own personal pain. Instead, when we choose for an hour or two to play, we place these fragile things carefully in God’s hands, trusting them to God for a few minutes. It’s like we’ve been invited into a game, and we ask another bystander: here, can you hold my phone/my drink/my keys, so that I can play with full energy and abandon?

What do you need to let God hold, so that you can freely play for a while? If you still feel the need, you can take it back when you’re done—hopefully with a bit of dirt and sweat on your face, a bit of the tension gone from your shoulders, and a fresh perspective just how capable God is of holding anything.

 

2 Comments

  1. Keri, it is always refreshing to read your blogs. Thank you. No amount of play or Sabbath helps me unless I am also present and accounted for. Being truly present is the first step toward peace for me. This comes weith daily practice over time. I have missed many beautiful moments by being distracted. David

    • David,
      Thank you for this important reminder. We can’t turn to play to simply distract us. Rather, we need a playful spirit that allows us to tune out all distractions. In my book Rest, I compare play to that state we perhaps experienced as children, where we were fully engaged in a game of imagination or doing something like building a fort or playing tag–so fully engaged we didn’t think about anything else. Moments where we are not aware of time passing, or other distractions–kairos moments.

Share your thoughts. Please stay on topic and polite!

%d bloggers like this: