Friday, February 24 Lenten Calendar* Invite: Take time to play… perhaps a game of cards, a board game, or a game with a child in your life.
Lent is a lot of serious business. Fasting. Repenting. Forgiving. But sometimes the ability to do the hard things requires some space to play.
A story of play that I will never forget is when Tim and I sat with hundreds of clergy at the National Pastors Convention. The featured speaker told the narrative of parents struggling with their teen. They had done the serious and hard work of setting boundaries, disciplining, and seeking counseling. It seemed they had arrived at a road block. The counselor gave the parents some advise, “Go play hide and seek with your teen.” It sounded ludicrous. But at rope’s end, they did. The result? Playing broke down barriers. The hard work became easier. The relationships became stronger and gentler.
I have seen the power of play in the way it has bound and blessed my own family… the one I was raised in, the one I married into, and the one that I am raising. I grew up in a card playing family, the number one card game being gin. Cards seemed to span the generations and the seasons. When my grandma, the beloved family matriarch died in the spring of 2021, her daughters, granddaughters, and great granddaughter all gathered days later to grieve and remember. We spent hours playing gin. We sometimes imagined her there with us. We told stories of her as we shuffled the decks and sorted our hands. We laughed in the midst of the hurt. The gift of playing cards was beautiful and healing.
Our home has a basket of games that always sits out in the living room. It includes various card sets and Rummikub and Farkle and Catch Phrase. We have had such loud and raucous games of Farkle into the late hours of night that we have been concerned that the neighbors might call the police. Play time without a doubt has made our family stronger.
Sometimes the play time is not around the table, but playing corn holes out in our backyard or along the shore of the lake when we return to the Midwest in the summer. One great race we will never forget is when all the first cousins and second cousins broke into teams to see who could be the fastest in finding all the clues in a massive corn maze.
Each winter we gather with the other side of the family in the mountains in California. We have had a huge crew playing at the same time - games like Apples to Apples that actually leave us knowing each other a little bit better. A small group of us always play Scrabble… for HOURS. We are striving for the coveted “Scrabble medallion” - a homemade shrinky dink necklace that says “Scrabble High Scorer” and goes to the winner of that year’s Christmas cabin time match-up until the next year when a new battle will begin.
My husband and I like to play backgammon. You might think we dislike each other if you heard the smack we throw down as we compete for the win. But playing backgammon is sometimes just what we need. In day to day life we carry lots of serious things. Sometimes all the adulting is hard. But then we play. We tease. We laugh. Life becomes lighter. You feel like you can do the hard things again.
We humans need to play. We are better for it. Did you ever consider that God might want you to play in the midst of this somber forty day desert journey of Lent? We might be able to do the hard work of Lent in better ways if we also do the delightful work of playing.