Lord, teach us to play
The spice box
by Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel –
One of the most challenging tasks for the person who is truly dedicated to his or her vocation is to find time to relax and have fun. I am always amazed at the number of Salvation Army officers who say to me, “I haven’t taken a day off for months,” or “I haven’t taken a vacation for years—there are too many demands on my time—I can’t get done all that needs to be done.” Often a certain amount of pride is detectable in the statement, as though never taking time to relax is somehow praiseworthy. I have often wondered how the Lord would respond to that. After all, was it not he who taught Moses—a busy man if ever there was one—”Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest” (Exodus 34:21 NIV)?
When I was 12-years-old I taught my first vacation Bible school class—kindergarteners. While it was fun, one child’s question had me stumped: “If we are supposed to rest on Sunday, why does the pastor have to work?” I think I mumbled something about the pastor doing the work of God, which made it okay, but the child had a point. Does being called to do the work of the Lord negate the command of the Lord to observe a day of rest?
Jesus said, “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In other words, God designed the human being to require periods of rest—a time away from normal duties, a time to enjoy him and all the blessings he has made available to us—a time to rejuvenate and heal from the bumps and bruises of every day life, be they physical, emotional or spiritual. He has commanded that we, his people, take time to stretch, to grow multidimensionally in our experiencing of life.
Child development professionals teach us that “play is the work of the child.” Through play, the child develops physical dexterity, and the ability to reason and think things through. As he learns to consider the needs of others, he also develops language skills, self-control and skills in interpersonal relationships, and the ability to share. And he has fun!
We never outgrow the need to step back and take time to enjoy life, to grow through developing our own abilities to play—to engage in enjoyable leisure activities, to interact with others on a recreational level. God knows that; God planned it that way. Jesus enjoyed the opportunity to participate in various celebrations with family and friends. He loved a good conversation. I can easily imagine him laughing (but not cursing) as he fumbled a catch or engaged in a friendly competition. I can imagine him hiking through the wilderness or climbing to the top of mountain just for the sheer joy of experiencing the natural world and praising the Father for his perfect understanding of the need of man for a time to get away and rest.
Except in times of dire emergency, there can be no justification for ignoring God’s command for a day of rest, away from the duties of our work. God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, expects it. And logically, while he understands our desire to accomplish the mission he has given, he must be displeased and disappointed when we disobey him in this important area. After all, Jesus himself experienced the stresses of the mission-driven life—he knew from experience that one must take time for one’s personal well-being and spiritual development. He knew the value of enjoying periods of relaxation with family and friends. And with his help, even the busiest of us can learn to play.