From Guest Writer:
Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer, Senior Pastor, North Avenue Presbyterian Church
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to play. I played sports all my life, played music that brought me joy, played games with anyone who would play with me, and often was the unofficial “Director of Play” when our family gathered at family reunions. I take pride in the fact that I’m the only family member across our generations who has successfully completed the Half-Gallon Challenge, drinking a half gallon of whole milk in 30 minutes. If you think it sounds easy, go ahead and try it! (For the record, my sister just informed me that her son also completed the challenge, but he was sick for days!).
I have a hunch that when Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and don’t stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14), that one of the dimensions of being a child to which Jesus calls us is the uninhibited ability to laugh and play. Our play is a reflection of the joy of knowing God’s love in Jesus Christ and of receiving each day as a gift from God.
On several occasions, I have met my match when it comes to play. One person who could always “out-play” me was a beloved church member, Phyllis Frost, aka “Frosty.” I recently officiated her memorial service. She died at the age of 93, and she remained playful until the very end. I have never heard so many funny stories at a memorial service as I heard before, during, and after Frosty’s. One time she was in my outer office, just when I had finished pre-marital counseling with a young couple. As the couple and I walked out of my office, I introduced them by saying, “Frosty, this is Jim and Linda, and they are getting married in our church next month!” Frosty looked them in the eye, and without thinking twice, she said, “Why the hell do you want to do that?!” At first I was completely embarrassed by her outrageous comment, but then they all started laughing uproariously. Jim and Linda became immediately endeared to her for her spirit of fun and play. They even said, “This is such a cool church!”
In recent months, I have discovered another dimension of play – its ability to bring healing to a broken heart. In Proverbs 15:13, we read, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (The Message).
Frosty seemed to know this. Over time, I came to know that she had lived a hard life. Her marriage to her beloved husband came crashing down around her just after their second child was born, when he suffered a severely debilitating stroke. In a moment, she became virtually a single mother to two young daughters, a full-time working mother, and a caretaker of an incapacitated husband. She worked at Georgia Tech for nearly 50 years. She loved being at church, and she genuinely loved and trusted God. Laughter and playfulness helped her keep her sanity and inspired others to stay strong in the Lord in the face of adversity. All the way to the end, she was utterly playful – she was “a blast” to be around and she helped strengthen our faith.
A little less than two years ago, our family experienced the tragic loss of our youngest son, Justin, at the age of 22. After Justin died, I honestly could not imagine ever laughing again. I lost my ability to play. Then one evening last December, my wife, Cynthia, and I were with the four other couples that comprise our small-group Bible study/prayer fellowship. As we were in the kitchen getting ready to serve the food, a friend and I started into a comedy routine that left us both laughing so hard we could barely contain ourselves. It didn’t really matter that no one else found our humor all that funny; we simply could not stop laughing. That evening, laughter and play began to restore and renew my broken heart and heal my soul.
My prayer for all of us is that we will recognize all the more that play is a means of praising God. Play points to a good and gracious God, who has given us his Son, through whom “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20). I hope you will join me in claiming this very day as a gift from God, in which we are called to live fully and to play for the glory of Jesus Christ! As the Psalmist proclaims, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
Playfully yours in Christ,