When I was a kid I used to create new lands in my basement. My sisters and I would transform the cement walls and floor in to a tropical island or a recording studio, an old town or a prairie village. Play was a place to try on various scenarios, jobs, and personalities. It was a place where I was taught to dream and was a place where I began to live out those dreams. Play taught me that creativity and imagination were good things. Play is an incredibly important part of the human experience.
Unfortunately as we age we often loose our ability to play. We tell ourselves play is irresponsible and we need to be “grown-ups.” The popular movie Hook, from my adolescent years, touches on this theme. Robin Williams plays an adult version of Peter Pan who had lost his sense of play, which meant he no longer reached inside of himself to create or imagine, live generously or encourage others to do the same. It was through his experience in Neverland as an adult where he once again found his ability to play.
The movie, “Finding Neverland,” touches on a similar theme. The imagination and artistic direction of the film play out a kalidescope of color which flood the screen. The story was told with such creativity that it spoke to the artist in me. When I first watched the film I wept. Why was I so moved? What was it? I didn’t understand why this story could awaken something so deep in side of me.
It was then I realized that I deeply desire for people to be restored to play. The young boy, Peter, in the movie Finding Neverland had lost his father to an illness and no longer felt safe. He felt lied to and he no longer trusted adults or that good could happen. It was through his relationship with Johnny Depp’s character, J.M. Barrie, that he began to feel safe, begin to trust and it was then he found himself playing once again. In a very poignent scene, J. M. Barrie invites orphan children to fill the seats of his theatrical release of Peter Pan, the adults in the crowd could not understand why this children were present. The play began and the adults sat confused and the children laughed. It was the children’s laughter that engaged the adults and play swept over the crowd.
There is a craving so deep with in each of us to play. To create. To imagine. But we, like young Peter, have lost our trust, we’ve become discouraged or we have grown up. It is in play that we engage the Creator in a profound way, where we begin to taste what He may have just felt when He made the firefly or the penguin… or how about you and I. Play is a spiritual discipline for it is when we play that we create and when we create we live into the image of our Creator.
So today, take your shoes off and walk in the grass. Draw a picture. Go swinging. Twirl. Hang out with children. Put on a costume. Write a story or play hide and seek with your adult friends. Let’s allow play to sweep over us and create, imagine and live into the image of the Creator we’ve been given!
How do you like to play?