A guest post by Laura…
“I hate my body,” he said, as he curled up in pain on the couch. “I don’t know why it gives me such a hard time.”
I looked at my son and felt a twist in my stomach; that helpless feeling I am beginning to know so well. I sat down beside him and smoothed the hair back from his forehead, pressed my lips into that mass of red locks.
Later, we would end up in the ER, awaiting surgery. Again. His third in a year’s time—more than his mother has had in her lifetime.
Some seasons, this broken world sweeps like a tidal wave over our neat little lives, leaving so much debris in its wake. All our carefully laid plans are strewn about like flotsam, and we are left feeling the same—unmoored, wrecked.
During such times, it would be easy to give in to despair. When troubles distract I need an anchor for my faith. Most days, the usual spiritual practices keep the ribbon of my heart tethered to God’s—you know, those disciplines we have all kept in the Christian life: prayer, scriptural study and meditation, fasting, Sabbath-keeping; those regular practices we keep to grow in our faith.
I’ve always preferred the word “practice” to “discipline.” Discipline seems so … well, you know, so much like work. And while it’s true that growing in the God-life is often a hard work of the heart, it’s that hunger for God—that desire—that makes the labor a labor of love.
In her lovely book on the Christian spiritual life, Soul Feast, Marjorie J. Thompson says, “Desire cannot be forced or manufactured; it can only be discovered in freedom.” This is something I have learned over life’s changing seasons; the times when I have struggled to pray or found it hard to hear God’s voice. A few years ago, I found a new spiritual practice that helped me bridge the gaping emptiness of those times: play.
During a season of the dark night of the soul, I felt God tugging at my heart to meet with him in a different way. Come out and play. I wasn’t sure I had heard right but it came again: Let’s play outside. I was confused, what would that look like? What is play in the grown-up world? I was curious and nervous, yet … excited about my time with God for the first time in a while. And so I promised him that I would do this thing—I would meet with him once a week in my not-so-usual ways. I would step out of my comfort zone and invite God to come with me.
Sometimes this meant going to a new place: an art museum, a park, a lecture hall. Sometimes it meant seeing the old with new eyes: reading a beloved book outside under the maple tree, writing a poem or playing with words, even painting my nails or fixing my hair in a new style became moments of intimacy with God—because of this promise I made; because I dedicated this time to be aware of his presence with me, in me—loving me unconditionally.
As I learned to invest in these playdates with God, something beautiful began to happen. My other spiritual practices? They came back to life again. And I began to trust God with my time—not micromanaging every moment, not overdoing the list-making. With this freedom, desire was stoked anew.
As my son underwent surgery the other day, I found myself in the waiting room, laptop on my knees, googling up his diagnosis; letting worry and fear lead. In the midst of all that doubt, I felt a gentle urging—so soft, that if I had not been practicing I may have missed it. So I left the waiting room and walked outside. There is a gloriously tall White Pine on the hospital commons. It stands alone and I was drawn to its shade. The sun peeked through the brushy branches and a breeze shushed through the long needles.
And suddenly, I knew I was not alone. Assurance came from within, from the place that was listening and watching.
I am with you, it seemed to say. Always.
A note from Jen: Would you like to win a copy of this book? It’s truly amazing, especially for me, who kinda doesn’t do the whole “Play” thing well. You can find out more of my thoughts by clicking here for my review. And if you don’t win, that same link will take you to Amazon where you can purchase it.
Content Editor for The High Calling, Laura Boggess lives in a little valley in West Virginia with her husband and two sons. Laura is the author of two novellas for teens: Brody’s Story and Derek’s Story, and the newly released Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World.. She blogs about life and faith at lauraboggess.com.