A Summer of Play, Part Two

This week on the podcast, as we continue our series on the beauty and necessity of play, Dan Allender and Becky Allender wrestle with some of the obstacles and demands that often keep us from engaging play, or that relegate it to an afterthought or addendum to the rest of our lives. Becky and Dan share that, amid the concerns of marriage, raising a family, and Dan’s busy work schedule, this has not always come naturally in their relationship. Like it does for so many others, play often felt superfluous, like a bonus activity you might get to once all the more important things are covered.

Dan: “It’s not easy. If you play easily and well, bless you. But I’m not sure the two of us have been easily and naturally engaged in play.”

Becky: “To actually make time for play, to see that as essential for your well-being, goes against the grain of our American, puritan work ethic. It’s not so easy to have play as a category in your day.”

I need to consider going out daily to the hammock as a very serious commitment.

It is far more common in our culture to pride ourselves on how busy we are and how much work we have to get done. This can foster a sense of guilt if we set aside time for play, a sense that it is frivolous compared to the other, more practical things we should be doing. On the other end of the spectrum (and often a consequence of this idealization of work) is escape and dissociation, which might come through binging a TV show on the couch; this is fundamentally different from the life-giving, restorative nature of play.

Dan: “You have to separate distraction and dissociation from that sense of being fully in the moment. […] Whenever distraction rules, I think you’ve avoided play—you may have avoided work, but you’re not doing what your body and your heart most deeply needs.”

For Dan, play was not a safe, consistent part of his childhood home, while it was more freely a part of Becky’s upbringing. Those dynamics are reflected today: Dan often postpones or second-guesses it, while in many ways Becky has been the one to push them deeper into play together. In other words: As with everything else, engaging our capacity or lack of capacity in this regard will eventually lead us back to story, inviting us to reflect on the dynamics and experiences that have formed us.

Dan: “There are always past issues, current issues—pressure, guilt, being overwhelmed by so much necessity in front of you that adding play feels like now more work—there are so many things that evil wants to do to make sure we don’t play. And I think in part, what we’re inviting you to is to at least address, what keeps play from being as rich and profitable in your life, in your friendships, in your marriage, as it’s meant to be?”

Becky and Dan reflect on some of what they’ve learned about cultivating play—the intentional “work” of weaving moments of play into their day-to-day lives. Next week, they’ll continue the conversation by reflecting on how that intentional practice can draw us into deeper connection with the goodness of God.