The Serious Call to Play

It happens at most wedding receptions. Everyone seems to be on the dance floor enjoying themselves while I hesitate in the corner. There is something unnerving about hurling self-consciousness aside and letting my body go. A similar reticence occurs when I am asked to throw my schedule aside and go have fun for a day or a weekend. It feels like I’m wasting time. I can’t play. I have too many important things to do. 

But all of this is plaster. It’s caked onto something pulsating underneath. And every now and then, the plaster cracks.

Once during a time a depression, I went for a walk in the bitter cold to clear my heart. I walked in on the middle of a Canadian geese convention in a flooded field. I listened to the honks and snorts, the cackles and cavorts. I couldn’t help but hear it as laughter, and I began laughing myself. There was play going on. There was a dance happening. By the time I returned home, my depression had lifted.

You’ve felt that play yourself. Maybe it’s watching squirrels chase each other through the grass. Maybe it’s seeing clouds mingle and vanish on a swift summer sunset. Maybe it’s noticing the twinkle in a child’s eye, as he pumps himself furiously on a swing. 

The plaster is our way of coping with life. It’s the personalities we concoct so as to withstand assault and legitimize our souls. But the pulsating underneath never stops, no matter how much we bury it, no matter how much we ignore it. It goes on around us and in us.

Life does seem to be a serious affair. There is evil and tragedy. We feel anxiety and fear. People make mistakes and suffer consequences. Playing? Dancing? That’s a luxury even the lucky can’t afford. But what if we have it backwards? What if play and dance are at the center of reality? What is evil and tragedy are just a passing thing?

Jesus became a man to invite us into His Father’s intentions for us. We may think that it’s all serious stuff — surrender, obedience, holiness, mission, discipleship. We need to buckle down and get to work. But what if we have it backwards? What if we are being invited to trust like children and let our hearts go? What if we are being invited to play?

In the center of all reality is a dance. It is the play of rapturous love. It is the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t so much explain the Trinity as invite us into the middle of it. It is His serious call to come and play. It is the playfulness of contingent creatures who know they are cherished and loved.

Today, hear His voice to follow, obey — and play.

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