A girl who just wants to have fun
As a child, playing didn’t come very naturally to me—sports, board games, dolls and house—it was all a bit complicated. What didn’t make this easier is that I also really disliked looking silly in front of others. And that adage, “Dance like no one’s watching”? Rarely did I dance when people were watching, and rarely did I dance when they weren’t. I was serious, easily offended as well as sensitive (there is a difference), and quiet, with the smallest of any sort of challenging life experience leaving me easily bruised, sad, and too afraid to play and laugh and be around others.
So when I first encountered University Christian Outreach my freshman year of college, I thought that the people were quirky, warm, and joyful. They had a sense of playfulness that struck me right away. They weren't irresponsible or living worldly lifestyles, but they also weren't worrying, studying, and isolating all the time like me, nor were they easily offended, as I was. They even took the Lord’s Day to heart, and specifically set aside Saturday nights and Sundays for rest, worship—and play. Intrigued and inspired, I hovered around my UCO friends, but was definitely not interested in ending up as “out there” as they were, in-terms of the way they played, but also, in terms of the way they were living out their faith.
Thankfully, God had other plans! Over time, my UCO friends gently and lovingly made sure that I had plenty of chances to take risks, be out front, looking silly and acting, frankly, in ways that I’d carefully avoided since my childhood! Skits, costumes, silly songs, and even dancing—with many people watching—all these things embarrassed me and also, transformed me. Relaxing and having fun helped me to enjoy life more, get over myself, and melt away layers and years of pride and fear. Finally, I could experience how deeply loved and lovable I was to God and others. Soon enough, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, I found myself volunteering to be “out there,” a total fool for Christ, leading the games, taking time to rest, and probably looking pretty silly and dragging people “out there” right along with me.
A Higher Game: Christian Discipleship
When I think back, what did the Lord do to provoke such a profound change in me?
After I was prayed over to be filled with the Holy Spirit by some of my UCO friends, my inward eyes were opened, and my heart awoke, and then, for the first time, I realized that I had a choice to make. I could either let the big and small sufferings and offenses in my life swallow me and rule me—I could let my self-concern consume me; I could bow down to the lies and fear and doubt.
Or, I could choose for and worship Jesus Christ in the midst of it all and let go of my pride and let my heart be open and vulnerable and that of a child’s, of the child I was always made to be and meant to be, by God’s design. God meant for the Christian life to be enjoyable, fun, even!
First, developing a solid trust in God’s love as Father, and second, having deep, strong relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ helped me to grasp this truth. The choice to live in this new reality is one that I made once, twice...repeatedly throughout my college years. And honestly, it’s a choice that I need to renew, that God invites me to renew, every day.
Because the truth is, sisters, there is more than enough suffering, sorrow, labor, and cause for grief in this world and in our own lives, and there always will be until we are with the Lord Jesus forever in Heaven. And we need all the courage and faith and interior sense of play and childlikeness we can grasp in order to face this reality as disciples on mission. When we make this choice to live as free and joyful daughters, we affirm that our identity is in Christ, that we are the Father’s beloved daughters, that He is in control, and that He has the ultimate victory.
Because it turns out that if you can laugh in the face of small things and let go of small things, this grows into a capacity to laugh at and let go of big things to His care.
And then, life looks a lot more vivid, exciting, and even fun! God knew that I needed to start small (be comfortable with being silly for a five minute UCO skit in front of my friends) so that I could grow in confidence and courage to shine the light of His love and share the Gospel with others in the world—and to do so with joy and delight. I think of people like Lawrence who, supposedly when he was being burnt to a crisp over a fiery pit for being a Christian, said, “Please, you can turn me over now—I’m done on this side.” Now there is a man with an interior sense of peace, play, and trust in God, who genuinely loved the Christian life! I aspire. I am so not there yet.
Sisters, we need our sense of play and joy that no person, place, or thing can thwart. We need to cling to our identity as His daughters. The evil one, the world, and our own flesh will tempt us to pity ourselves, remain locked in sadness, and exist in a constant grey cloud of self-centered and needless emotional anxiety and stress.
Someone I admire once said that “Discouragement is pride,” a quote that has cleansed my heart more than once.
This is what our Lord says to me (and perhaps these words are for you, too):
You were made to run, laugh, and play! Cultivate, guard, and foster an interior spirit of joyfulness and playfulness and childlikeness that no sorrow, suffering, or attack of the evil one can tarnish. So you want to be a missionary, saint, and martyr? Learn how to crack jokes and smile and play, even when it’s most difficult.
The most recent nuance in the past two years has been rather shocking but convicting, a word from the Lord in the moments when I most especially would rather hang my head and walk away, just walk off the field of discipleship, as it were:
So, are you having fun yet?
And when I hear that in my personal prayer, I can’t help but smile, and even laugh. Well, yes. There is no other life I would choose, and no other life I want. Yes, I am having fun, the time of my life. Yes, Lord, I choose you, and I choose to keep playing.
Dance, Shout, and Live for Jesus
So my advice, and my challenge to you? Make time to relax, have fun, and be silly, be with friends and family, no matter what else in life is going on. Stay down to earth by planting yourself in Christ and in Christian community. Thank God for His abundance in your present life. Invest in precious moments to laugh and play because the most important work has already been done for you: salvation in Jesus Christ and sonship with God the Father.
Today, I dance when people are watching, and I dance when no one’s watching. I sing loudly in my car—even at stoplights, where total strangers can see me making strange motions and belting lyrics. I don’t cry in corners now when people note time and again that I am “vertically challenged” or when I make mistakes in all sorts of capacities. I laugh at jokes. No longer too proud, too fearful, or feeling too unloved, I am free to be a fool for Christ, a child of God, and to have the time of my life while doing so. The Christian life: it’s most fun I’ve ever had!
· Do you take the time to rest, play, and have truly refreshing fellowship and time with God and others?
· What do you already do for recreation? Is it pleasing to God?
· What about yourself, others’ lives, or your own circumstances tempts you to worry and feel burdened? Have you surrendered these things to God?
· Do you open up to friends, sisters in Christ specifically, about what burdens you?
· Do you honor the Lord’s Day, and set aside the day for worship and refreshment?
Lynne can be found belting song lyrics from her car in Frederick, Maryland, where she is a member of Triumph of the Cross Community, a community of the Sword of the Spirit, and works as an editorial assistant for The Word Among Us. So she also hopes that you didn’t find a single typo in this article!