I have been thinking more about the ‘humble of a child’ line of Jesus. Quite soon after writing my post on ‘distracted by God‘ I realised I had forgotten all about play.
In the examples I gave of the Shibboleth and the busker I think I missed something. The children didn’t just have the time to be distracted, they didn’t just divert their attention to what was in front of them, they didn’t just engage with what was before them. They played.
With the Shibboleth, they ran their hands down it, they dropped things in it, they balanced on it, they jumped over it, they tried to stretch across it. With the busker children danced, they sang, they jumped up and down. Children play.
When Jesus says we need to be humble like a child …. is there something about play that we have lost in our relationship with God, each other and the world? To play, or to experiment takes a certain level of vulnerability … especially for an adult. Sometimes, for an adult to ‘play’ in front of others there needs to be a certain level of humbling.
I remember 2 years a go buying a cuddly toy with my daughter, for my wife, in the Bear Factory. The Bear Factory is one of those shops where you can choose and make your own cuddly toy. Unbeknown to me at certain times during the day a member of staff in the Bear Factory will stand on the counter, call all the customers to attention and get them to sing the Bear factory song … which has actions! I mean, that is my worst nightmare …. worse than those cheesy action songs you get in some churches that when you look around realise the children are not joining in and that the children leaders, alone, are enjoying themselves!
So …. i am in the shop at ‘that time’, with my daughter, trying to but a stuffed cuddly penguin for Sarah, with everyone singing and doing the actions to the bear factory song. I didn’t join in. I felt vulnerable and I did not want to look stupid or feel silly.
But afterwards …. and this IS the really annoying thing … I felt silly anyway! I felt silly for not joining in. (I mean what is that about??!!) After all, it was just a bit of Christmas fun. I probably looked the odd one out, just because I could not forget I was an adult, humble myself, and sing a song with a few actions for 60 seconds. I did not play. Because I did not play, in some way I missed out on something!
In the early days of my ordained life I used the terminology of ‘play’ to describe my role … ‘to play and create with God’. Actually, it shocks me to realise I had forgotten that language. Alongside losing the language, I think I also stopped playing; and for me that means stopped creating, stopped messing about with ideas with God and others until something happened.
For the last few weeks I have been pretty much immersing myself in grace and vulnerability readings and videos. There is a Jean Vanier video on Work of the People that talks about the need to be a child and the need too have fun.
A key part of that play is a requirement to live in the present. This is something, again, that children seem to find easy to do. Forgetting yesterday, and not worrying about tomorrow, means they can live in, play and enjoy the present. Personally, I am starting to trust and so stop worrying about tomorrow … forgetting yesterday is a bit more of a challenge!
Vanier is an amazing guy who talks really powerfully. The clip is 17 minutes long, but it is worth watching and dwelling on …. if you click on the pic you should be redirected … (on testing it you may need to click again!)
…… life is about relationship and fun …. not about winning medals.