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Weekly Devotionals

The Spiritual Discipline of Play

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:2-3

The summer is drawing to an end- we are sending kids back to school or are returning to class ourselves, and returning from summer vacations. Even if you didn’t go on vacation or have no connection to an academic calendar you can still likely feel a difference as we start to shift from summer season to the fall.

For my family, we spent our summer in the United States for the first time in several years. Prior to leaving, we discussed setting an intention for our visit. We knew from previous visits that choosing “rest” as a priority often left us feeling frustrated. There were people to see! Things to do and to eat! Not to mention spending every waking moment with our energetic kids. Instead we chose “play” as our intention for our time- that we would chose to do things that were fun, life-giving and to use play as an opportunity to connect with each other and friends and family we were visiting.

Play is something we often don’t prioritize as adults. We are about getting things done at such a rapid pace and fitting more and more in our schedules until we crash. Moments where we play- do something for the sheer joy of it- are often few and far between. However, play may offer us a glimpse of what God has for us. In Genesis 2, we read there was no sin, no brokenness and the world was proclaimed as “good.” There was Eden and in it- peace and connection with God. J.R.R Tolkien once wrote “Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it.” We all know we feel something missing and often we are hungrily trying to fill it, fix it and strive to stop that feeling through any number of things. Play and the pursuit of activities that give us joy can give us glimpses of God’s goodness, creativity and joy that permeates our earth- belly laughs with friends, ocean waves, sweet summer peaches, the thrill of a drop on an amusement park ride.

In the day to day monotony of life it may be easy to see our spiritual life as more tasks on our daily to do list. Yet we follow the God who is behind every good thing-every joyful and fun thing. Jesus tells us to be like little children (Matt 18:1-5) and play can bring us back to a place of curiosity, joy and humility like children. Prioritizing time for play and joy could be what helps point us towards needed spiritual disciplines such as sabbath rest, celebration, gratitude and worship.

As we move from the unstructured rhythms of the summer into the routines of fall, may we discipline ourselves to look for joy, be alert to God’s creativity and playfulness that fills this earth and to connect with our good Father that has created every good thing.