Be Enveloped in Play & Fun

By: Josh Waidley

This is the first of three exercises in our Sabbath Blog Series; each blog provides practical ways for you to practice a sabbath in your present season.

In a city like San Francisco where success, efficiency, and competency are highly valued we can easily become very serious people. We feel we must live up to the unspoken expectations of a city that says only the hard working, quickest thinking, most creative, most gifted people are truly worthwhile. Work becomes central to our identity and it begins to bleed into our lives outside of work until all life is saturated by the possibility or demands of our job. And while there is life that comes from a job well done (we were created by God to work after all), it is often forgotten we were also created to play. In fact, work and play are closely related.

Dallas Willard defines work as, “the creation of value”, and play as, “the creation of values that are not necessary.” He continues, “We realize that all that is good is God in action. God plays. Creation was play for God. When we play, what is good is to see God in the creative. We don’t know what play is unless we actually watch a child without a toy still playing. Play is good, creative and life giving. This is hard for adults because they are so serious and measuring things in terms of productivity and all. Work and play are related because both are domains of creativity.”

David Naugle puts it more simply, “Play, defined quite broadly as any legitimate and moral activity engaged in for enjoyment or recreation (including sports), is an essential part of our divinely created humanity as the image of God and is therefore an intrinsic good.”

We were created for play. God plays. When we engage in an activity purely for enjoyment we are reflecting the image of a God who created the universe not because it was necessary but because of an overflow of his divine love and joy. God desires us to overflow with this kind of love, creativity and joy, this kind of playfulness. In engaging in play we are doing nothing less than reflecting to the world an often overlooked and ignored aspect of God’s divine nature.

In the same way we were made to experience co-creative work with God, we were also made to experience co-creative play. If you want to get super theological, Jürgen Moltmann says play is, “kingdom foreshadowing. It is a momentary escape into the future reality that God intended for us all…Play foreshadows the joy of the eschaton where all manner of drudgery and disease and decay and death will be left behind. It is not useless activity”. Simply put, play is a hopeful, forward looking taste of what existence will be when Jesus rids the world of sin, brokenness and death and brings heaven and earth together.

Reflection Questions:

  • What are specific memories or moments in life, either as a child or more recently as an adult, where you experienced the unbridled joy of play?
  • What were you doing? Who was with you? What were the emotions of the moment?
  • When are you most playful in life? When was the last time you had significant, life-giving, soul-refreshing fun?

Planning Your Outing:

Based on your answers to the reflection questions above think of an activity or outing that would be the most playful and fun for you. Since every person is unique what it means to play will look different for you than for another. For some, time alone or with one other person would feel the most playful. For others, fun means community, noise, energy and a large group of friends. The following is a list of activities if you are having trouble thinking of one:

  • Going to the zoo.
  • Gathering a group of friends to play sports and going to lunch together.
  • Going to spend a day in nature: a hike, the beach, mountain climbing.
  • Going to Disneyland.
  • Going surfing.
  • Creating art: paint, sculpt, take pictures, write.
  • Going fishing.
  • Going to a concert.
  • Going to a museum.
  • Having a backyard BBQ or pool party (or both at the same time!)
  • Going wine tasting with a group of friends.

Reflections for Afterwards:

Spend some time journaling after your experience.

  • What was your favorite moment from the day?
  • Was there anything disappointing about the experience?
  • Was there a moment you were conscious of God with you in the midst of fun?

Spend time in prayer thanking God for the gift of play and fun.