I was His delight day by day, playing before Him all the while, playing on the surface of the earth, and I found delight in the human race.
For this Trinity Sunday, I would like to talk about this image of play that is used in the Book of Proverbs. I want to talk about how play is an important and actually serious thing that we should take in our lives because it does help us encounter God.
These words that we hear in the original Hebrew, the word for “play” means that God was not an idle spectator in creation. He in fact was playing with ease and surprising variety and God saw that all was good, but He delighted most in His own image. In the human race that He created in His image and likeness. So, God loves to play with you. It’s a wonderful image that we have for this Trinity Sunday.
Some of the words for this Hebrew word “play” are to laugh, to be amused, and to make a sound that expresses a feeling or attitude of pleasure and amusement. So, God takes pleasure and amusement in you. This sound can communicate spontaneous joy, a state of enjoyment, or fondness. It means to laugh, to be amused by, to make merry, to play, to dance, to produce laughter, to engage in joyous diversions or events, and to be at play.
The New American Bible that word for this translation of play goes on to say, “to laugh, to cheer, to delight, to gladden, to look at, to behold, and to delight in”. On this Trinity, Sunday God wants to delight in you.
I want to talk a little bit about the play from my own memories of playing as a child. I was an 80’s child. When I grew up in the 80s, it was a wonderful idyllic childhood for me because those were the summers. When summer came, we were like the boys of summer. We would take off early in the morning, we would go to the park, and we would play all day until my mother, who lived about five houses down from the park, would scream, Bobby, Julie, Michael, Jimmy, Christy, Sherry”, there were six of us. You could hear her voice all the way down there. We would play all day until dinner.
What were we doing back in those days? Played on the slides, played on the merry-go-round, played pickup basketball, and picked up a baseball. We would play. We’d go on adventures. We would go hiking. I think about those memories of childhood, and they were so good and so enjoyable, but I didn’t realize until now that God was present in those times of play. It’s like prayer. God was present just in the sheer fact that we were playing.
There’d be many times too when I would play alone either because I would feel left out or overwhelmed by everybody else or sad. I remember playing alone with my toys, with Legos, with GI Joe’s, and building things and kind of creating things. Even in those times of play, God was with me as a child. I look back on that now with great fondness and comfort that God was there even in the lonely times of play. God was there in the joyful and wonderful times of play.
Now I’m an adult. What does play mean for me as an adult? Well, I never wanted to be a priest because I thought that priests didn’t play. I thought that priests were boring. If you guys know me at all, you know that I am a very playful priest. I love times of leisure, and time to play. I love playing with my nieces and nephews. I very much enjoy life. One of my mottos has always been, “Work hard and play hard.” It’s important to have times of play.
Now, for us, we are given the Sabbath, so Sunday is supposed to be a day of play that we simply delight in and enjoy what we’re doing.
One of the things a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists first do when they assess somebody, say somebody comes for depression or anxiety or any kind of difficulty in their life, they will always ask them, “Do you have any hobbies?” Because if a person doesn’t have any hobbies, it means that they’ve forgotten how to play. And play is essential to us. It’s important that we take time every day and every week to have times of play. Why? Because when we play God is delighting in us. God delights in you when you play.
I want you to think about that as we enter into this time of summer, this is supposed to be a time of leisure for us, a time of enjoyment, a time of play. How would you like your summer to look if you really had a plan that you can make for your summer to maximize the amount of play time that you can have? It is important to our physical and psychological health, but it is also important to our spiritual health that we do have this time of play. Because when we play, God is delighting in us. Take every opportunity that you have.
As the reading continues it then talks about work. It says then I was beside Him as His craftsman. That sounds like a downer, right? We’re talking about the play now all of a sudden, we’re talking about work. Here’s the thing. The craftsman is supposed to be an image of play that when we work, if it’s really what God is calling us to, it ought to be something that we enjoy because we are working along with God who is shaping the universe and the world with, in, and through us. So, just as God worked for six days and rested on the seventh our work is a participation in God’s creation. This suggests that others think that it may mean darling or beloved and may refer to this playful aspect of work. Wisdom was before God’s presence as a model on the day of creation. The Holy Spirit is also with us in work.
When we discover this. When we discover that work can become a play, we will discover the intense joy and the task assigned to us by God. We become partakers in God’s creation in God’s work.
Think about play. Try to find ways to play that you love, hobbies that you love, people that you love, times you can play alone, and also times that we’re called to make work into play so that we can be with God even in the matter of our work.
I want to end with a very brief poem called, “Teach Your Child Through Play”
I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside.
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand, he put the key.
“Come,” he said, “play with me.”