In this chapter we consider the spiritual practice of Play–one of my favorites! It can be hard sometimes to play without a purpose–without keeping score, or to play a game repeatedly no matter who wins. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time, like even our play needs to have meaning. Or sometimes it feels like we just don’t have time to play–life is much too serious for that. And while it’s hard to find exactly biblical models of Play, the concept of unexpected-no-control-over-the-outcome-surprising-purposeless activity is there. Stories with a twist, being counseled to let go of our expectations, reminders that we are not the ones in charge here–these are all over the scriptures. Add in the praise of child-like-ness and the refrain of nature (skipping gazelles and frolicking birds and beautiful waving flowers, trees that clap their hands and hills that sing) and we can easily find that the things we experience when we play are in the sacred text from beginning to end.
In the book Way To Live (a book of spiritual practices written by a group of teens and adults) there is a whole chapter on Play. One of the things the group did when they were working on the book was to play a game of Capture the Flag at every meeting–for a year. That game involves physical activity, strategy, group building, and surprise. You never know how it’s going to turn out. Sometimes you can play in the dark, or the daylight, with or without flashlights, with various rules…it can be exceedingly fun.
MaryAnn talks about a ministry team at her church that begins each meeting with 20 minutes of a game–no keeping score, just having fun together. They have found that it helps in bonding their group and that it offers a way to shake loose their usual way of doing things and open them to new ways of seeing. What do you think about that idea?
SO: how do you play? Any favorite games or activities?
The other concept introduced in this chapter is the idea of a buffer…so many of us have tightly controlled schedules that need to function just so, or else everything falls apart. One traffic jam, one cold virus, one power outage, one day not going according to plan, and everything just seems to go to chaos. Having a buffer allows some space to breathe, to feel like we’re not always on the hamster wheel. And one of the things a practice of Sabbath can do for us is build that buffer as well as “poke through” and help us build more buffer into our everyday lives–to live Sabbathly, as MaryAnn says.
Do you have a buffer? Do you ever wish you had one, or more of one? How might Sabbath help?