The Importance of Play -- Rev. Julie Long
Last week, I was given a gift. I got to spend four days with eleven kids from our church and three other chaperones at PassportKids! Camp at Mercer. The parents of the kids I take to camp all look at me like I’m crazy when I say that children’s camp is one of my favorite weeks of the year. When we show up for the week with sleeping bags, a bag full of kickballs and board games, a well-stocked first aid kit and a bunch of high-energy, squealing kids, I often hear, “Are you sure you want to do this for four days?”
But when the truth is told, I must admit that I get just as excited about camp as the kids. I can’t wait to see whose act makes it into the talent show this year, or which kid (or adult) will win bragging rights for the biggest cannonball splash. Most of all, I enjoy the change of pace – the chance to close the laptop, get out of the office, put on the sunscreen, and play.
Children’s camp is my annual reminder of the importance of play. We live in a society that has an unhealthy practice of play. We measure success by the amount of hours we punch on the time clock and how much we check off of our to-do lists. We push our kids to not only play on the baseball team, but to work hard for the highest batting average or a spot on the all-star squad. We find our worth in our achievements, in what we do rather than who we are. We rarely take the time to stop, to rest, and to play with enjoyment and satisfaction.
Our faith tradition calls this regular time for rest and play Sabbath. In the very first words of scripture in Genesis 2, we learn that even God took time for rest. Who are we to think that we don’t need to stop our producing for rest? We need to take time to slow down, to have meaningful conversations with family and friends, and to do something that we enjoy, not because we feel like we need to, but because it renews us.
Sabbath is not only a commandment; it is a gift to us from God. In demanding that we practice a regular time of rest and play, God reminds us that our worth is not determined by how much we do. Our worth is in who we are as children of God, created in God’s image.
Summer is a great time to begin the practice of Sabbath. Take a vacation to the beach with your family and take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation together. Read a good book – not a how-to or a professional one. Commit to putting aside one day each week – or even part of a day – and refuse to do laundry, check email, or do yard work. Make it a time to rest and play.
For four days each summer, I get a chance to see the world through the eyes of a child again. Deadlines vanish, emails go unanswered, and the tension in my shoulders loosens. At camp, I don’t make a to-do list, but if I did, it would include: Spend time with a child. Play. Laugh a lot. Make new friends. Learn something new. Look for God in all things.