when we play

When you're crouching behind a tree hoping your 6-year old neighbor doesn't find you, it's a good time to think and reflect on life. 

During a day off from school, my daughter and I were engaged in a furious and messy game of hide and seek with the neighbor kids. Being the largest person in the game, they found me early and often and since we were playing in a park full of small trees I accepted my role as the fall guy. 

At that moment, crouching, hearing the kids shout "Give us a hint!", I began to think about all the things I could be doing. 

I could be working on this book deadline that looms large. 
I could be writing a talk for two upcoming speaking gigs. 
I could be hanging that picture in the bathroom - the one that my wife has strategically placed right in front of the chair where I read every morning. 

When you're 39 and playing hide and seek, the first thought is typically what you should be doing instead. 

When you're 6, you have blinders on. You only know the hunt, and you run like no one is watching. 

We - the adults, let's say - are busy with much, and it seems like a throwaway line these days to say, "We're all busy." It has become as meaningless as the "how are you?/good!" exchange. But...

You are slowed when you're crouching behind a bush. 
You surrender busyness when you are sandwiched inside a closet, trying not to breathe too loud, knowing you could stand up and say, "I'm done" but you want to remain hidden. 

Play - games like hide and seek, for example - reveals the fact that busyness is a mechanism we use to hide from things.

We hide from the truth that our busyness is often the liquor that blots our relational and emotional struggles. 

We hide from the fact that our sense of importance rests on our ability to execute, while God sees us as "very good" even without our performance-driven outlook on the world. 

We hide from the fact that we are allergic to childlikeness because we want to be seen as respectable, grown up, and having our junk together. Meanwhile, we miss the Jesus who rolled in the dirt with children because the Spirit dances on the laughter of children. 

Perhaps today is a good day to decide to incorporate play into our lives as a spiritual discipline.

Play is the act of healthy enjoyment with others that does not lead to an outcome. It is gratuitous. It exists for it's own sake. 

If you don't believe me, play the board game Sorry from the perspective of achieving something that makes you feel like you're awesome. I doubt you'll find satisfaction in that one.

I know, because just yesterday my wife and daughter destroyed me in that very game. Ah, the discipline of humility...

What I know is that for many of us, we'd rather fast for forty days than play a board game with our families. At least while we're fasting we can stay connected to the social network that has become our world of value. 

What we may discover is that in the humility and purpose-free rhythm of play there is something about ourselves that God desperately wants to reveal. If only we could take ourselves less seriously for a moment. 

We find the joy of childlikeness.
We find the release of our need to be something
We learn that the world is not dependent on us, but is delighted by a less-intense us. 

The soul of a world that is aching desperately needs the joy of play - and it begins with us. How can you move towards a discipline of play today? 

And who knows, perhaps in the hiding something wonderful is there to be found.