James writes, “Do you suppose it is for nothing that the scripture says, ‘God yearns jealously for the spirit that she has made to dwell in us?’ But she gives all the more grace, therefore it says ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God.” (James 4:5-7)
Sometimes I am too proud. My girls ask me to play hide and seek, and I demur. I’m too dignified to crawl under a bed; I’m too big to stuff my body into a cupboard; I’m too intelligent to pretend not to see them as they hide with one leg sticking out. Anyway, I have better things to do.
But they plead, so I agree to play a quick round or two with haughty grace. I don’t enter the game fully; I am pretending to play rather than actually playing. But as I pretend, something odd often happens. I wander into a room where I heard a floorboard squeak, and there is no child. I quickly check the usual places; still no child. My pulse quickens and my heart begins to race. “Hello?” I ask tentatively into the quiet room. I check again, and perhaps then there is a muffled giggle. I look once more and finally see a small lump in a most unexpected place, perhaps the washing basket. I tiptoe over, peer under the laundry, and a child bursts out; we shriek and laugh. Now it’s my turn to hide.
Instead of going to one of my usual spots where I can stand quietly and check my text messages—in the pantry, behind the shower curtain, in the powder room—I race down the hall, sneak into the laundry, then hide halfway up the stairs just out of sight; I creep onto an unmade bed and arrange the doona over myself in a hot messy mound; I manoeuver into the gap behind the couch. With pounding heart I wait, stifling the urge to giggle nervously. When a child comes near, I hold my breath …
Still waiting …
then jump out, “Boo!!!!”
And suddenly I realise I am no longer pretending. Here I am, dignified old me, leaping and shouting and giggling like a five-year-old. I’ve shot from pretending to playing, just by going through the motions.
It makes me wonder what else I could become. By pretending I have all the time in the world, could I acquire patience? By acting like a faithful wife, could I plumb the depths of love? By noticing my triggers and taking a deep breath when I’m angry, could I learn to be gentle?
Could I soften my hard heart by pretending to be kind? Ω
Reflect: Do you like to play? What have you learned about yourself through playing? How has play helped you to grow?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022.
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