Summer. That word conjures up all kinds of thoughts and memories. Hopefully most of them are positive. Though our current culture is changing, summer still means, for the most part for families, a change of pace. Many families plan vacations or at least some experience together. The longer days mean more time to be outside and play, and that is what I want to speak to for just a minute.
One of the definitions of play in the dictionary is “a pleasurable and apparently purposeless activity.” Our culture is growing less tolerant of “purposeless” activities. We demand a profit on our investments of time and energy, so if an activity is purposeless, we discard it. Maybe we should rethink that thought.
In the gospels there is a story (Mark 10; Luke 18) that records for us a story of parents bringing children to Jesus, but the disciples try to send them away. When Jesus sees what is happening, he quickly moves to change the situation. In fact, he asks for a child to stand beside him and says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a child will not enter it at all.” Strong words. There are many layers to that saying, but today, let’s talk about children and play.
Many sociologists suggest that the work of children is play. There is much we adults can learn from the play of children, according to Jesus and many others. The following quote is from a radio program called “On Being.” Hosted by Krista Tippett on Sundays, it is a wonderful program that dialogues about faith and life issues. This past Sunday the show was about play, and featured Dr. Stuart Brown and his research on play.
Krista says-“Who knew that we learn empathy, trust, irony, and problem solving through play. Dr. Stuart Brown suggests that the rough-and-tumble play of children actually prevents violent behavior, and that play can grow human talents and character across a lifetime. Play, as he studies it, is an indispensable part of being human.”
You noticed that I underlined “across a lifetime.” Dr Brown’s research from creation and humans suggest that playing is a vital part of our whole life, not just when we are children. Jesus already knew that, and suggests that our best self as a spiritual being is helped when we play.
I know that in my life I do not play as much as I did even just a few years ago. This is not good. Jesus gives me permission to play, and it is important to my physical and spiritual well being. I believe the same is true for you.
I hope during this summer, you can find time that has no other purpose than to play. Evidently it has eternal consequences!