Have you played today? No, I don’t mean surfed the web or ran a lap around your neighborhood. I mean play. You know, did you splash in a puddle, let your dog lick your face, tickle the kids, slurp spaghetti, or tell a joke?
Yeah, yeah. You’re busy with work, cleaning, and a million little things to do. Yet we can’t escape the fact that play isn’t a nice add-on at the end of the day. Rather, play is essential for our growth and joy. And while we recognize that play is critical for kids’ development, we tend to forget that play is good for us old people, too.
Play develops curiosity. Curiosity is the basis for learning. Were we not curious, we would never motivate ourselves to discover the truths about the world we live in. For example, we have an annual event in my hometown called Art Prize. Within a three-mile radius, one can see over a thousand works of art. Not only do I love the pieces themselves, but I also appreciate the stories behind the art. I learn much about art, human motivation, and the joys and sorrows of life. I can’t necessarily say the same about reading from a textbook.
Play builds our confidence. I think it’s high time I played a rousing game of tug-of-war. I’m not talking about kicking some little kids’ butt. I mean kicking some adults’ butt. In a godly way, of course. In a moment of insanity, we brought home two dogs a few days ago. And boy do those dogs love to play tug of war. When the war is over, those two walk away, tails wagging in the air, demonstrating confidence in their doggy-ness. Play can build our confidence, too. With so much to do at work in such little time, many people feel unsure about themselves. What a great outlet play is, then, to remember we are more than busy workers, harvesting the golden honey of business success and money. Jesus offers us the abundant life. And while work is necessary, yes, I can’t imagine He would deny us the pleasure of play.
Play boosts your relationships. I love my husband. He hates tickling. So what do I do? Tickle him, of course! While doing so may not enhance his feelings for me, tickling does enhance how I feel about him. How? Because tickling is fun. (Yes, I realize that tickling is really a form of manipulation and control, but that’s acceptable since sometimes I need a power-boost). Seriously, though, playing—whether that be strategizing over a board game or jumping on a trampoline or attending a comedy show—inspires feelings of intimacy and trust. We like those we have fun with. That’s why leaders will often incorporate enjoyable and challenging team-building exercises into business conferences and retreats. Play makes people come alive and develop positive feelings toward others. When’s the last time you chased the kids or did cartwheels?
Play decreases stress. My clients lead hectic, frantic lives, as if they’re walking on a tightrope of deadlines, frightened they may fall. And no wonder. Their lives are ruled by their relentless to-do lists. They are exhausted and overwhelmed, and that’s from the day to day minutiae, let alone the major challenges they face. But sometimes, we need to just let it go. Satan wants to attack and overwhelm us so we become ineffective Christians. He knows that if he can make us weary, we are more likely to become defeated. Play gives us those breaks where we can refresh. So every once in a while, close your eyes to the madness and mayhem. Shut out the noise. Skip to the songs of your heart.