Life has a curious habit of jumping up and surprising me—provided I keep my eyes, my ears, and my heart open and receptive.
Over the Christmas holidays I spent hours playing with my grandkids, as we built forts in the playroom, created robots out of Lego’s, and raced through the local park chasing away assorted giants and dragons with magic swords made from fallen branches.
It suddenly occurred to me that for my grandkids, this was not merely ‘playing’. It was very serious business. So serious, that the activity was interrupted only because it was getting dark, or it was dinner and bath time.
To them, this was their work. This was, in this moment, their prescribed duty. It was what they were given at that moment to do, and they did it with all their heart and soul.
I then had this flashing thought—What my grandkids were doing with their play was in fact practicing for their role as an adult. They were practicing the arts of innovation, and imagination, and creativity. They were gaining practice in the grown-up art of re-creating the world.
I thought of my experience on life, how each new experience,opportunity, challenge and task, seemed charged with that same excitement, bringing with it a certain energy, a sense of fulfillment, and joy.
There is a reason for the glee we all see in children as they play. They have not yet lost the capacity to be astonished at the world, and their place in it. When a child pulls a carrot from the ground, it is a delight. So when did it become a chore for the adult?
The Creation stories found in the Bible suggest our universe began with the Holy Spirit ‘Playing’.
“The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered (fluttered, Played) over the surface of the water”.
Humans differ from all other creatures in that we were made in the image and likeness of God, including his divine characteristic of creativity. You and I are also made to create– to recreate, to strengthen, to nourish, and to continuously make better this world—all actions that were always meant to be ‘child’s play’.
Children do not have to be reminded to act like the one who created them. They just do.
But, as we grow out of childhood, we begin to forget that to play at making new stuff or making stuff better is what we are made to do.
Washing a new car, painting a new home, planting a new garden. starting a new job or a new relationship—are all fresh opportunities to put your mark down, to co-create with the Creator himself.
But then, the car gets old, and I wash it less frequently. The weekly housecleaning becomes a “chore”, and the job has lost its luster and I refer to Wednesday’s as “Hump” day, and at the end of the week sigh “Thank God it’s Friday.” The relationship gets common, and I take it for granted.
In losing my interest in the routine and mundane tasks or long-term relationships, I have lost my sense of astonishment with the universe.
Yet, I am one who has been granted a second chance at life. With that, I was given a renewed sense of gratitude, and a certain joy in simple tasks; the joy in making my bed in the morning—grateful I had a bed. Grateful for a house to clean, a car to wash, a job to go to, a wife to come home to.
Grateful for a second chance to become a co-creator, whether it is taking initiative and risks at work, trying new things, learning to play the banjo, reclaiming my lost piano skills, grow in intimacy with my wife, or sitting down to write a blog now and then.
But still, gratitude is not second nature to me. So, how can I stay enchanted with my world and my particular place in it? How can I, who have lost some of that tendency for creative play, become ‘re-astonished’ with the world, and with my role as Co-Creator and CO-renewer in it?
Brother Lawrence was a monk whose role was cook and dishwasher for his monastery. He modeled a life that recognized the divine underneath everything. This recognition caused him to approach every task, every created thing, as full of God—a path providing him with a pervasive sense of the spiritual, elevating the most mundane of kitchen chores to a noble act.
Here are a few things I do that help me remember to approach my duties lightly and with a playful attitude:
- Morning Quiet and Reflection: Approaching my duties with a playful and grateful heart requires that I maintain a certain mindfulness—a mindfulness cultivated in prayer, meditation, and reading.
- Accept my chief role in life as a partner and co-creator with God, the ongoing creator and renewer of all that is— no matter how small the duty or task , or large and daunting—either way, am not alone in it.
- See my daily duties and work as my designated path for today—it is my pathway to encounter the mystery and wonder and enchantment that is inherent in life.
- See everything with new eyes, and walk lightly and gently through the day. For when I grasp a bell tightly in my hands, it will not ring, but if I hold it loosely it will sing.
My grandkids are not yet aware of all of this when they play. They just bring their whole self to the task, and because of that, they are filled up with joy.
I hope I can take this lesson from them, and remind myself throughout each day to approach my assigned tasks with the same enthusiasm, care, and love.
I hope to remain enchanted with everything in this universe. I want to play.