We sat and talked about how her babies were no longer and she wondered how many years she really had still had with them, how much time was left. Her oldest was already a teenager and she said it with tears brimming, ‘I hope I haven’t lost him.’
She told me how she used to keep the nursery for a Bible Study and how there was this one little girl who loved to cause trouble. Her director asked her what she did with her in the first half hour of class, when it was time to play.
The director explained that the beginning of the morning was just for play and not just for the children. It was time for her to bend down low and show the children she loved them, to play with them and be with them. The wise woman said that play time was the time to love on them and this was the way to gain their trust, to win their hearts.
This was the way to deal with the troublemakers, to make them certain that it was no trouble to love them.
She talked about what time she had left to play with her teenage boy, how walks and talks sometimes work, but the more the years piled on, the harder it became.
I came home with her story and her eyes and this burden, me here with my own children who can seem like nothing but trouble at times. I came home remembering what that discerning director had said…how the play pleases them so much that soon they want to please you, to do what you ask because they know you’d do anything for them.
And so I started a small thing right here. I started to play.
I started stopping all the work, throwing in the towel and just plain playing.
I remember reading a few years back about a mom who was intentionally playing with her kids 30 minutes a day. And that goal seemed so lame to me. Who needs a goal like that?
Apparently I do.
The dusty furniture and the crumbs on the floor, the dish stacks and laundry piles and the school checklist, all of it can push me to the edge of the margin until there’s just not a moment left to play.
I was starting our day right off with Bible reading and school work and forgetting to just sit down in pajamas and giggle.
I was taking us from this activity to that and forgetting to tickle like a monster and chase like a lion.
I was cleaning and straightening and never stopping to actually play with the toys I was always putting away.
And no wonder there was trouble here.
How can I so easily forget the way God is with me? It’s His kindness that leads me to repentance, how could anything but playful kindness lead my children? It’s Him that loves me first before I can ever love, how can I expect my children to lovingly obey when they aren’t convinced that I love them already?
Can I tell you things have changed? Not overnight, but over the nights, the small times of play have added up and things are different around here. The kids wake up teasing me, begging me for a tickle, telling me to be a lion, asking me to chase, wondering if I’ll play with them. There are still moments of discipline, for certain. But they are fewer and further between.
And we’re laughing here. We’re all laughing, even me, with the mess and the mishaps and the crazy chaos. The more I reach out to love and play with them, the more I really feel like I really do love them. Perhaps God uses these pitiful little efforts of mine and is actually giving me more love. Who knows?
Play time is a small thing, but it has made all the difference here.
“At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” Matthew 11:25-26
This is one in a series of posts this season about small things that God has done in me this year. Read more posts here: Small Things