What does it mean to be playful?

As I continue my practice of prayer, Jesus continues to invite me to play. Recently as I prayed through Psalm 23, I noticed that in my time of centering prayer, Jesus was with me in the green grass by the still waters. It was a beautiful place. Instantly I saw that we were moving around a lot… I was a child, which I often am when I see myself with Jesus. He was happy, turning around and around with me in his arms; tossing me up towards the sun. His smile was warm and there was great delight in his eyes and we skipped through the meadows by the still waters.

“What are you doing, Jesus?” my thought interrupted my prayer…”I thought we were supposed to be resting?” I inquired.

“We are playing…”

“Oh… is that what this is” the thought took my breath away. Jesus was gently, playfully reminding me of his invitation to play. I realized in a brief moment that I didn’t even recognize that that is what we were doing… because I am so serious sometimes… and because somehow in my spirituality there is no room for this playful Jesus who keeps showing up.

Yet, Jesus says so many times that the kingdom of heaven is like little children… possibly at play.

What is play exactly? I actually had to look it up! Playing is innocent, it is a frolicking and enjoyable activity that is often characterized by children… something outside the ordinary, not being so serious and yet absorbing someone intensely. It is said to be the root of creativity in both work and life.

I am guessing that the opposite of play would be earnest, calculating, work.

As we ponder being servants of this playful God and what it means to work on behalf of the kingdom, it causes me to pause and think about children and their play. Could serving Jesus and participating in God’s kingdom also be about delight, trust, and free engagement in activity that is outside the ordinary? Could it be enjoyable?

This is a stretching thought for someone who has forgotten how to play…

Surely there will be suffering. Jesus assured us of that, but I think we really must balance out the work, the calculating and the earnestness with the childlike qualities of delighting in, trusting in, and engaging in what the spirit of God is doing in us and around us.

Jesus did say that his yoke was easy and that his burden was light… but I guess that I never considered this aspect of it.