Spiritual growth requires much of us. It takes effort, presence, practice, and time. It’s work. Lately I’ve come to appreciate another layer required for this growth – play. For the spirit to truly grow we must learn to play, to entertain wonder. Many of us lost that ability as we became adults. We think of play as something children do. Even then, we don’t take it seriously. There is societal pressure to grow up quickly and put away childish things. Somewhere along the way we can begin to confuse wonder and merriment with something too juvenile for our engagement. This is an error. Play is actually serious work.
“Play Is The Work of the Child” – Maria Montessori
I am learning to take play seriously due to my position as the Director of Religious Education. Earlier this year I enrolled in a class on Spirit Play, a method of teaching RE which is based in ritual, story, and individual choice in response to the story. As the training began I could feel my own resistance. I stared at the felt being smoothed out in the center of the circle and had to remind myself to look at this from a child’s perspective. Quickly I was lost in the story. A part of me had opened to the magic of story as teacher. The simple objects moved across the felt bringing the story to life. Still, I could feel a nagging in the back of my mind telling me I should be doing something more serious, more important.
I returned to Florida and busied myself with increasing the quality of the Spirit Play class we offer and adding another class for a slightly older group of children. My days soon filled with reviewing and selecting stories, putting together story baskets, shopping for art supplies, and putting together stations for exploring prayer, reading, and creative play.
Play showed up again as a piece of my work when I attended a workshop at General Assembly to learn about a worship component for all ages called The Wonder Box. It was the best of Spirit Play combined with the best of sermon delivery and direct ministry. You can view a video of the workshop here.
I returned to my congregation with a new mission; to invite the congregation into a space where wonder was central to the worship service and their lives. Through doing the Wonder Box each week I continue to open myself up to merriment and joy. Wonder has become a source of inspiration as well as a goal in the kind of ministry I provide. I find as I am learning to simply wonder about the world again, something within me is softening and opening to life’s gifts. I find myself more present with my surroundings, more willing to encounter the Mystery, which some choose to call God.
With willingness, often comes growth. The spirit longs to sing. There is a fundamental need for us to allow ourselves to be wowed by life. Let’s all go do the work of children and find ways to play and wonder.