The Importance of Play

The fairy lights I’d put up gave her face a glow as she played.  

‘Mummy!  Will you play with me?’ she said in her sing song voice. These new words of hers rolling around in her mouth as she spoke.

She patted the floor beside her. ‘Mummy sit.  Mummy, listen.’

I sat. She lifted a book and started to read it – she has memorised the rhyming story already – and she tells it to me and to the assembled dolls, teddies and a couple of trains, all snug and comfy in her tent, as she pointed at pictures and turned the pages. 

When the story finished, she said, ‘can we draw please?’ Catching me lost in thought, watching her and realising I hadn’t heard she said again, ‘Mummy, draw. Now!’

As we drew crazy lines of colour across the page, I thought to myself – playing is relaxing, and how my deepest hope for my little bear is that she will never stop playing and being creative. No matter what age she is.

Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”

I wondered – how often do we as adults play, or be creative?  When did we forget that playing and creativity was allowed, even if we do have to take life seriously?

These questions lingered with me as I read this week’s gospel passage where Jesus, being set up with a seemingly impossible question by the religious lawyers, turns everything they understood on its head as he answered.

They’d asked him what the greatest commandment was – the trick of course was that none should be more important than any other. And, Jesus sidestepping the question, cuts to the core of the 10 Commandments, condensing them to two, saying, ‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you. This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your neighbour in the same way you love yourself.’

May I offer you this thought to ponder –  ‘loving our neighbours, in the same way as we love ourselves.’ We can’t really love others if we don’t value and love ourselves. So what does it mean to love ourselves?  Part of the answer I believe is taking care of ourselves.

Of course a phrase that’s bandied about everywhere these days is ‘self-care’, and there’s no shortage of articles directing us to baths, breathing, and just being. Honestly, it can feel a bit too “woo woo” at times.  Yet at it’s very core, self-care is really following Jesus’ commandment to love ourselves, and to let our love for others flow from there. Because if we see the divine beauty and value of our own self, then we will begin to see the same in others.

One of the ways to love ourselves is to play. Not necessarily with toys, although if that is what floats your boat, go with it! Actually, the incredible creativity of Lego and models and paint is not limited to kids! For me play is to sing along with the radio, to dance, to doodle, to craft beautiful seasonal arrangements. And I confess, working out the complex arrangements for my daughter’s train track, so every junction and bridge flow together and there’s no dead-ends! 

In all these things, I abandon the need to be ‘good’ and instead I just ‘be’ in the moment and let my soul feel joy.  This week may I invite you to consider playing by doing something that brings you joy.

With peace and blessings,
Revd. Talisker

Matthew 22:34 from The Passion Translation

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash