The January 2010 issues of Listen, a newsletter for spiritual directors, contained several short pieces on the subject of play and playfulness, prompting me to reflect a bit on play. Many people think of “play” as a term reserved for children, thinking play is too undignified for grown-ups or that there are too many duties that have to be performed to take time to play.

But the reality is that play is essential for all of us. Play engages our senses and restores and refreshes us. Spontaneous play is life-giving and freeing.

There is something else about play that I think is important. My first directed retreat after returning to Catholicism was an experience of great healing for me. I approached the retreat with some trepidation, not at all sure of how things were between me and God. It is fair to say that I lacked trust both in God and in myself and wasn’t at all sure where the relationship between us was going.

On the fourth day of the retreat, during the times I spent walking out of doors I had a frequent sense of God being playful with me. The notes I wrote in my journal for that day are cryptic, but reference several different experiences that conveyed a sense of God being playful and laughing, not at, but with me. What finally struck me after a number of these experiences was the insight that if God and I could be playful together, we must be on good terms. I realized one cannot really be playful with another person unless the two people are OK with each other, unless they have a level of comfort that allows them to let go. And what I remember most clearly is that absolute delight I felt at that realization, at knowing that God and I were doing just fine together.

Play is healing. Play is intimate. Play fills one with delight.

Take some time to play today. Play with God. Play with a friend. Play with a child. Just play.