As you slow down with me today, I want to invite you into a playful conversation. Maybe it’s because I’m otterly crazy and just like to have fun. Most days I get paid to play my way into the hearts and homes of children and families who have done more fighting together than playing together.
Over time, I’ve discovered that many of the games that people play with each other aren’t fun at all. Many people playfully communicate with humor and sarcasm and lies, but the messages that get communicated hurt more than they help. If you grew up playing games with people who got angry, had to win, made everything about flowing the rules, cheated, or ruined the game for everyone, you probably hate playing games.
When I was a young boy, I loved traveling to Pittsburgh to visit my grandparents because my grandpa would play with me. He took me to Pirates games. He took me to North Park where we fed the deer and the ducks. We’d play pitch-and-catch and croquet in the backyard. We’d play basketball on his back porch using a ball and a round garbage can. He taught me to love playing card games. He always brought out the peanuts and pretzels to make game-playing more fun. And he had a crazy sense of humor. When we’d play hearts, he’d pass me the jack of diamonds and set me up to win. He had more “German quirks” that I later found in the DSM 3 manual, but what got translated through all of his goofy games and quirks was that he loved me because he made time to play with me.
I believe God made us to play.
Through playful engagement we can build connected relational bridges where the walls between us can come down. Trust gets built when people stop working all of the time, start playing together, stop picking on one another, and use words and play to communicate love and respect and value to and for one another. Play takes time, and play communicates that you’re more important than all of the other things that I could be doing. Playing together and being emotionally present says, “I love you” and “You matter to me.” The most important truths and lessons that you want to pass on generationally can best be communicated through play. Some kids tell me that they only learn through play.
In order to learn to have fun and enjoy playing, you have to let go of your past. You have to stop worrying about all of the things that you should be doing that you think are more important than playing. You have to stop being so serious all of the time. You have to stop thinking about things that disturb or control you. You have to set aside all forms of technology so that you aren’t distracted from paying attention and enjoying the people all around you. You have to practice being emotionally, mentally, relationally, and spiritually present in the moment. You have to bring all of your heart and feelings to the table and appropriately express them in love. You have to learn to relax and be yourself and let your hair down and laugh.
I won’t use today’s blog to discuss all of the therapeutic and health benefits of play, but here are some quotes, just to get you thinking about play before you clear your schedule and play today.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
George Bernard Shaw
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
Arnold J. Toynbee
“Being playful naturally liberates the mind, opens the heart, and lifts the spirit. Take time to play today.”
Debra L. Reble
“Being playful is a key component in making us happier, healthier,
more present and connected in all our relationships.”
“Playful interludes, which focus on being rather than doing,
helps us restore balance and deepen intimacy.”
Debra L. Reble
“The most creative people have this childlike facility to play.”
Yesterday I stopped to visit some dear friends. One of my favorite kids in the world welcomed me in and engaged me in a creative drawing game. As we played together, I noticed that we were laughing together, and he nestled himself under my wing enjoying all of the love and attention. Through play, my young friend taught me how important it is to visit our friends, play with our friends, get close to our friends, and pay attention to what’s important to them. In the process, our God-given creativity gets expressed and relationships deepen.
That’s why I have invested the last years of my life developing tools and games to help people to connect at a deeper level with God, with self, and with others (Go to www.spiritdriven.org and click on the tool bar). We’re made in God’s image to connect and to enjoy one another. We’re designed to work and play together and keep both in balance. Playing and laughing together keeps us from taking life, others, and ourselves too seriously.
Instead of ending my blog in typical form asking way-too-many reflective questions, I want to encourage you to find some people that you love today, get out some games, and enjoy playing together. Watch what happens when you start becoming more playful. You may never stop!