A Surprising Side Effect of Playing with Your Kids

This past Saturday afternoon was a pretty lazy one for our family. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned; our children think a bit differently, though. It only took about 7 minutes of me sitting on the couch, drinking an afternoon cup of coffee, for the calls to start:

“I’m bored.”

“There’s nothing to do.”

“Daddy, play with me.”

I’ll admit – I did NOT in fact want to play with the children. I did not want to be the policeman who ties up the bad guys with a jump rope. Nor did I want to be the fire-breathing dragon who was vanquished by being pelted with frisbees. Even less did I want to be an evil mad scientist who had to face down Anakin Skywalker and Princess Leah (let’s not get too involved with the correct Star Wars genealogy here).

I wanted to sit on the couch, watch the sports documentary that was a poor substitution for a football game, and drink a cup of coffee. And that’s what I did for the next 5 minutes.

But then, seeing it to be a fruitless endeavor, I relinquished my hold on the lazy Saturday, and went outside with the kids. I went begrudgingly. I slung open the door harder than I should and stomped into the backyard, fit with an attitude that would rival any method actor who was set to channel his inner fire-breathing dragon. And I played.

We had light saber fights with sticks.

I caught the bad guys and imprisoned them in the playhouse.

We built a fire in one of our custom fire pits and threw different stuff on top to see what kind of smoke is made.

My attitude only improved slightly, until I suddenly had the striking thought that I really think was from the Lord:

I have never once felt this way when you have wanted to spend time with me.

And it stopped me dead in my tracks. I paused and confessed my sin of selfishness, my overwhelming commitment to my own person, in light of the great generosity of God. And then, while we were hosing down the children an hour later, wiping down the grime and rinsing off the smoke from the fire, I had another thought:

Playing with the kids was the best thing I did all day.

Not original, I know, but I realized that the benefit was not only for them; it was also for me. The corollary to the thought above was in these terms:

Who would have ever thought that the main way to mortify my flesh today was playing with my kids?

There was a two fold effect, by God’s grace. I play with my kids, and hopefully then have a small notion of the great willingness and desire of God to be with His people. And as for me, playing with them – really playing with them – is another means by which God uses to pry my white-knuckled fingers off my idol of self.

So, dads, can I encourage you with this today? Play with your kids – not only for their sake, but also for yours.

Be the dragon they want at the expense of your TV show.

Build the Lego structure they want at the expense of your nap.

Dance with the dolls at the expense of your adult conversation.

Do these things, and watch how God uses this simple action their lives and in yours.

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