It happens at most wedding receptions. Everyone seems to be on the dance floor enjoying themselves, while I hesitate in the corner. There is something unnerving about hurling self-consciousness aside and letting my body go. A similar reticence occurs when I am asked to throw my schedule aside and go have fun for a day or a weekend. It feels like I'm wasting time. I can't play. I have too many important things to do.
But all of this is plaster. It's caked onto something pulsating underneath. And every now and then, the plaster cracks.
Once during a time a depression, I went for a walk in the bitter cold to clear my heart. I walked in on the middle of a Canadian geese convention in a flooded field at dusk and stopped to listen to the honks and snorts, the cackles and cavorts. Watching them help other geese navigate and join the convention with all their noise, I couldn't help but hear it as laughter. And I began laughing myself. There was play going on. There was a dance happening. By the time I returned home, my depression had lifted.
You've felt that play yourself. Maybe it's watching squirrels chase each other through the grass. Perhaps it's seeing clouds mingle and vanish on a swift summer sunset. Maybe it's noticing the twinkle in a child's eye, as he pumps himself furiously on a swing. Or maybe it was on a boat in a still lake when all the deadlines and tasks seemed swallowed up in the quiet.
But those moments are the exception. What we live with is the plaster. It’s our way of coping with life. It's the masks we concoct to withstand assault. It’s the personalities we invent to legitimize our souls. But the pulsating underneath all that never stops, no matter how much we bury it, no matter how much we ignore it. It goes on around us and even in us.
Life does seem to be a serious affair. There is evil and tragedy. We feel anxiety and fear. Money has to be earned. People make mistakes and suffer consequences. Trying to be a good man takes work. Playing? Dancing? That's a luxury even the lucky can't afford. But what if we have it all backwards? What if play and dance are at the center of reality? What if evil and tragedy and sin are just passing things?
Jesus became a man to invite us into His Father's intentions for us. We may think that it's all serious stuff—surrender, obedience, holiness, mission, discipleship. We need to buckle down and get to work. But what if we have it all backwards again? What if we are being invited to trust like boys and let our hearts go? What if we are being invited to play?
In the center of all reality is a dance. It is the play of rapturous love. It is the life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus didn't so much explain the Trinity as invite men into the middle of it (John 17:26). It is His serious call to come and play. It is the playfulness of dependent sons who know they are cherished and loved.
Today hear His call to follow, obey—and play.
Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has served as a pastor, and a high school Bible teacher. Presently, he leads Landmark Journey Ministries as a speaker, small group coach, and author of Divided: When the Head and Heart Don’t Agree and Landmarks: Turning Points on Your Journey Toward God. Bill also serves as content editor for Stand Firm, LifeWay's devotional magazine for men. He and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Franklin, TN. Follow Bill on Twitter @BillDelvaux.