Happy are the Playful
By Darryl Tippens
CBN.com Author Darryl Tippens believes that people today are hungry for a holistic spirituality that involves heart, mind, and body.
His newest book, Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life (Leafwood Publishers),invites Christians to consider afresh the ways of Jesus.
Tippens presents readers with a compelling challenge to abandon their sedentary faith as he examines the common spiritual disciplines of friendship, Sabbath rest, hospitality, confession, forgiveness, listening, and even some unexpected ones like singing, feasting, and storytelling.
In a chapter about Sabbath Rest, Tippens writes about the art of play. Read the excerpt below.
"Happy are the playful, for they will be serious achievers."
God made us playful creatures, and it is proper and honorable to exercise this prized gift, even in our adult lives. Perhaps we should occasionally pray: “Lord, remind us to play.”
As the historian Johan Huizinga explained, we are homo ludens, that is, “playful humans”––creatures of play by our very nature. Just as surely as God calls us to work, he also calls us to creative leisure. (Was it children’s innocent playfulness that prompted Jesus to advise adults to become like children?) Sadly, we live in a time when children’s playfulness has been scrutinized and reined in by some anxious parents and overly zealous education experts.
Jonathan Kozol, author of Death at an Early Age and Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation, reports a dreadful transformation in early childhood education. Some two-year-olds now have coaches who prep them for interviews to ensure their entrance into Manhattan’s elite kindergartens, the “Little Ivies.” Some schools become “drill and grill academies” which have little room for playfulness, silliness, and recreation, because test performance is the only consideration. In this dreary, mechanistic system the innate joy of learning is drummed out of the children, and they become as miserably routinized as their parents.
Yet play “is the serious business of child life….It is not trivial to the child or the youth…play is not only a possible, but an inevitable, factor in the formation of character.”1 And, very importantly, it lasts throughout life. It does not magically end at adolescence. Part of our weariness results not from the weight of our work but from the dreary joylessness of our working lives. We should respect leisure as an intrinsic good. Perhaps we could then say: “Blessed are those who do useless things, for they will be fulfilled.” Josef Pieper argues that leisure is not just a “break” from one’s work, a utilitarian pause to make us more efficient. Rather,
[l]eisure is an altogether different matter; it is no longer on the same plane; it runs at right angles to work––just as it could be said that intuition is not the prolongation or continuation, as it were, of the work of reason, but cuts right across it, vertically. And therefore leisure does not exist for the sake of work––however much strength it may give a person to work; the point of leisure is not to be a restorative, a pick-me-up, whether mental or physical; and though it gives new strength, mentally and physically, and spiritually too, that is not the point. Leisure, like contemplation, is of a higher order than the via activa….No one who looks to leisure simply to restore working powers will ever discover the fruit of leisure; that person will never know the quickening that follows, as though from some deep sleep.2
The work ethic needs to be balanced by the “play ethic.” To be fully human, we must accept the rest and refreshment that Jesus offers. Indeed, our willingness to rest is a sign of faithfulness: “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters; he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Purchase your copy of Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life
Excerpted from Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life by Darryl Tippens. Used by permission of Leafwood Publishers, Abilene, Texas, www.leafwoodpublishers.com.
1. Herbert Wright Gates, Recreation and the Church (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1917): 10-12, 19.
2. Josef Pieper, "Leisure as a Spiritual Attitude," Weavings 8 Mar.-Apr. 1993: 6-12.
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