The Importance of Play

Play is so important

Have you ever noticed:

Play happens when we are able to set aside our to-do list.

Play releases stress.

Play builds connection and memories with others.

Play is vulnerable.

Ugh, play is so vulnerable, isn’t it?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder while trying to play, “am I fun to play with?”  “Am I appearing to be having enough fun?”  Gosh, I sound like a barrel of monkeys, don’t I? Haha.  Play is hard for me for a number of reasons.  When my parents divorced I felt like I had to grow up quickly.  I struggled with my sister’s anger, so I felt like I had to be the big sister, and I very very rarely felt like I connected with kids my own age.  I felt – and still feel for the most part – more comfortable with people who are older than me.  Play, for me anyway, is hard work.  Its funny, in my marriage I have noticed a big difference between means my husband.  Mark likes to play/rest and then get things done, while I have a hard time engaging in play/rest until all the things are done.  My whole childhood I grew up with this anxiety of letting the ball drop, and how I could not relax until I had found “success”  whatever that means.  I didn’t quite see this difference between Mark and I until about 2 years into marriage when we had a baby and a house and things got a little busier.  I will tell you this, though.  

Both Mark and Colette have taught me a lot about play.  Mark has taught me that play requires courage and Colette has taught me that play is the best way to learn.  Both require vulnerability.  Something I really admire about Mark is that he gets to experience a lot of cool opportunities in life because of how courageous he is and how he values play.  It is an absolute act of joy, integrity, and humility.  For example, about a year ago, Mark was asked to throw the opening pitch at a pro baseball game.  He wasn’t their first choice – their first choice, Mark’s boss, didn’t want to throw the ball because he was afraid he was going to bounce it and embarrass himself.  Luckily for Mark, his humility rarely allows him to feel embarrassment.  Mark got to throw the ball and he was the hero of the hour for his company.  He got pats on the back and atta-boys from his clients and coworkers.  As his wife, it was a glorious moment to witness.  I was so proud of him, not because he threw it over the plate, but because he went for it.  He was courageous and vulnerable.  He was stepping full into play!  He was setting an example for the rest of his team that play is important and they could enter in, too, as long as they were willing to let their ego go.  

Colette has been teaching me a lot about being present, eliminating what is not important and the pure joy of playing with her.  To be honest, sometimes I get bored with the type of play she wants to do.  I can only do so much pushing her on the swings or playing with barbies before my mind goes batty, but God gently reminds me, “Maria, my dear, this is the work of play.  This is the work of learning.  This is the work of being present.  You are only able to play when you know who you are and you’re not trying to prove anything.”  Oof, there it is.  Stop trying to prove something about yourself.  When we stop trying to “prove” ourselves, we open the door to rest and play.  Things will come more easily and you don’t have the wrestle them to have them.  Rest and play open the door to God’s will.  He loves it when we have play and joy in just being in the moment.

So, how does this sort itself out in the herd?  Horses learn through play.  Play can make them vulnerable but it is when they are at rest they play.  Foals frolic around and enjoy little games that allow them to learn.  Sound familiar?  Children need the freedom to play in order to learn.  

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