How Do You Play?

Do you do anything that you consider play? As adults, it’s difficult to find time for playing, but it is critical for long term happiness. I think playing is spiritual, also. So does one of my favorite writers, Leonard Sweet. In his book, The Well-Played Life, he wrote, “Some people fulfill themselves. Some people are full of themselves. Some people are just full of it. Disciples of Jesus are full of Christ. But we are mostly fully Christ when we are at play.”

Of course, it’s possible to play too much so that we ignore all our responsibilities, but that isn’t usually a problem … at least, not for the adults I know. For most of us it’s more likely we don’t play enough.

Today, Thursday, I played at noon. You may have heard reports of a crazy man cycling in the cold and wind on Mockingbird Street. Yes, that was me. I know, it was too cold for cycling, but being the stubborn guy that I am, I went anyway.

Here are the stats: 17.5 miles, 32*F, 23 mph wind from NNE (which means a head wind all the way home). It wasn’t my coldest ride of record. That was the Bike Club time trials in February 2012, when it was 28*F. But 32* is colder than I plan to ride again for a while. At least, until my fingers warm up.

And, I will admit, it wasn’t all about play. The only reason I rode today was so I could write about it. It follows in a long string of things I’ve done just so I could understand them better and write about them.

But that’s not all. Last Saturday I rode 51 miles, the furthest I’ve ridden in five months, and I felt great afterwards. I felt so strong and manly all I’ve wanted to do is get back on my bike and be even manlier.

I didn’t feel very manly riding east into the cold wind today at noon. And it didn’t feel like I was playing. It felt more like I didn’t have a choice but to keep spinning so I could get home and warm up.

However, for me cycling outside is play, no matter how harsh the conditions; cycling indoors on a trainer in a controlled environment is merely working out. One is play, the other is exercise. One feeds my heart and soul, the other strengthens my body.

A few years ago, when Cyndi was still teaching 5-th grade, she was working on a “Meet-the-Faculty” bulletin board in the front hallway of her school. She asked each teacher to list three dreams – as in, three places they dreamed of going someday, or three things they wanted to do, or people they wanted to meet, if time and money were no object.

B&C on the trailCyndi and I love these sorts of exercises. Not only do we get to dream and play together, we learn about each other all over again. But it was surprising to us that some of the teachers wouldn’t play along. They weren’t interested in having three dreams. They gave up dreaming years ago. It’s too bad they’ve forgotten how to play.

In his book This Running Life, Dr. George Sheehan wrote: “I discovered that play is an attitude as well as an action. That action is, of course, essential. Play must be a total activity, a purifying discipline that uses the body with passion and intensity and absorption. Without a playful attitude, work is labor, sex is lust, and religion is rules. But with play, work become craft, sex become love, and religion becomes the freedom to be a child in the kingdom.”

I believe finding time in our busy lives for play is crucial for our spiritual health. It doesn’t have to by cycling or running. It doesn’t have to be sports or games or adventures. It might be reading, or watching movies. It might be wrestling with your kids.

Having play time is one of the ways we leave room in our schedule for God to show up. It’s one of the few times our brains are relaxed enough to enjoy new ideas and hear new insights.

How about you? What do you do for play? How long has it been?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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