The God-Given Gift of Play (part 1)

We take a break from the apologetics blog for this important announcement. It has been on my mind, so I NEEDED to share it.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you have perhaps noticed that I have a special interest in teenagers. For the most part, I emphasize the “adult-ness” of the teenager. But for this post, I get to analyze the “child-ness” of the teenager, and why it is pretty awesome. But first…a story that has nothing to do with teenagers.

The other day, my sister Tara came over and stopped by our apartment to drop some baby stuff off for Abrielle (my daughter, due to be born July 17th). She brought her son, my nephew, Kellen. Kellen is now 2 ½ years old. So, what was intended to be a quick drop-off became us hanging out for a couple hours because Kellen and I found some toys that were going to belong to Abrielle. Kellen played with a pop-up animal toy for a while, and then we all went for a walk.

In fact, I’ve gotten to watch Kellen play for a few years now. At several random points, Kellen will say “Uncle Carson, you come over and play basketball?” And having been over, I have learned that if you play basketball with Kellen, he will not let you leave. (He might not even play basketball. He might play with the other toys in his room, but YOU have to continue playing basketball. There is no escape.)

It is interesting to watch…play is the HIGHEST PRIORITY in Kellen’s life. It is how he learns. It is how he socializes. I am becoming more and more convinced that it is what communicates to him that he is valued, far more than words do at this stage.

And as I think back to my own childhood…when I was 6, what in the world could POSSIBLY BE more important than going outside, finding a stick, and then pretending that it was a sword?

Play is an interesting social phenomenon

It is quite interesting that ALL babies and children play, often in the same ways. It is also interesting how society reacts to it.

ALL babies, and young children, play with dolls. For boys, however, we call the dolls “action figures” so that we do not feel like they are girly. But pretending is a critically important part of play.

And this happens in every different society. There is no society where children do not play. There is no society where children do not pretend. Whether they are pretending to be adults or to have a family or to be warriors or to be workers or to drive cars, children pretend.

And this leads to my teenage story. My wife made an observation about teenagers the other day, one that really made me think. One that I SHOULD have figured out, but she was the one who nailed it on the head. We were watching the unending energy level of teenagers and how they constantly ran around at the church and were always laughing or joking or doing something.

Sarah’s observation was this: “I often think of teenagers as new adults…learning how to be adults. But it’s easy for me to forget that teenagers are part adult, but still part children. They are running around because they are playing.”

Playing. Teenagers, who again are weird adult/child hybrids, are simply letting their “child” side show. They are playing. They are having fun, because having fun is one of the highest priorities they have.

Is this bad? I am convinced that this is not bad. But I am also convinced that a lot of society treats this as though it was bad, so in order to transition these teenagers from child-stage to adult-stage, many adults squelch their “playing” side.

I think this is an incredibly huge mistake. Why do I think that? How do adults “squelch” that playful side? That is coming soon.

Look before you leap – A series about when, how, and who to date (intro)

Song 3:5 (NLT)

“Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the swift gazelles and the deer of the wild, not to awaken love until the time is right.”

Song 8:4 (NLT)

“I want you to promise, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.”

In the past, many believed that Song of Solomon was a metaphor about Christ and his love for the church. But many Bible readers are getting more and more into the plain, in-your-face meaning of the book, as it talks about romantic love.

Yet, something that I find interesting about Song of Solomon is that it speaks to everyone. It has a message to the married. It has a message to the engaged. It has a message to those who are in a relationship, but unsure and scared. You know who else it has a message to? Single people.

And to each and every person, the book teaches wisdom. Now, single people get a message of the joy they have to look forward to if they choose to get married, but they also get a stern warning, a wise yet difficult decision. Don’t awaken love until the time is right. It is so important that the book says it twice.

I once heard it said that if you want a happy eternity, make sure you have the right Savior. If you want a happy life, make sure you have the right spouse. A mate must be chosen with wisdom. However, when one feels lonely, the voice of wisdom doesn’t seem to be as loud as the voice of desire for companionship. As my friend Wes put it, “she wasn’t looking for ‘Mr. Right’ but ‘Mr. Right Now.’”

This blog series is specifically written for teenagers, young adults, and anybody who enjoys interacting with them/us. The purpose is twofold…A) Give us a warning of what to look for and what to avoid. B) In light of that, shed some light on who we are to be. Shall we look for someone who is nice, yet ourselves be a jerk? No.

Why do I feel this is important? Several reasons.

  1. Mistakes we make here are the ones we regret the most, and often the ones that affect our lives later on.
  2. I do not believe that there is one Mr. Right or one Mrs. Right out there. I believe that once somebody is married, they have made a solemn oath before the LORD that they must hold to. However, no naming anyone please, but a lot of us know people who never should’ve gotten married, yet they did. To them I say, it will be more of a struggle than most, but you must stay married. However, to those who are unmarried I say…you still have a choice. If you do not choose wisely, well…you figure it out.
  3. Along with number 2, although we will never admit it, many men decide they are in before the relationship even starts. It’s kind of like…if we couldn’t see ourselves marrying you, we wouldn’t date you. Therefore, only 1/3 of break-ups are initiated by men. As for women, many women have a fear of hurting someone’s feelings or creating conflict. Because of this, there are many women who will sometimes stay in a relationship even if they don’t want to (women, do you agree? I need your feedback). Men and women both need to have the confidence to end a downhill relationship, but sometimes simply having a good filtering system (you do this, you’re OUT) and a good eye for warning signs will save someone from unnecessary heartbreak.

Special reason for teenagers

  1. Specifically for teenagers…I don’t know if you’ll believe this, but often the two most important things in a teenager’s life are the opposite sex and friendships. I won’t say it’s an absolute truth at all times, but I’m pretty sure it’s common that a person won’t admit how important the opposite sex really is to that person (especially for us guys), even when it is really very important.

Since this area of life is so important to teenagers, if we as adults do not take teenage romance seriously, treating it like it is insignificant and unimportant (“They’re probably not going to get married anyway, so what’s the big deal?”), then teenagers will feel like it is them that we are not taking seriously.

I have also gotten a TON of feedback, from teenagers and young adults both, where they say that they like it when I talk about relationships. They’re important to us, aren’t they? So if we can give advice that someone can see in the world around them, then it is quite interesting, quite captivating.

So people like talking about relationships. I like talking about relationships. So welcome back…let’s talk about relationships. And to same everybody time, trouble, and heartache, let’s talk about relationships before they happen, not just once they happen.