I’ve got a 6-year-old who loves to wrestle. Or play P.I.G. in the driveway. Or go looking for Pokemon. Or get pushed on the swing. Or… everything. He loves everything, but most “everything” involves me when I come home from work. I find this, many days, to be a very insensitive request on his part. He doesn’t seem to know (or care) that I’ve had a stressful day at work. Or that the commute was especially long. Or that I had to get up early that morning to get some things done before I left the house. Or that I’m very busy and very important. He only knows he wants to wrestle.
Kids can be so selfish. Amiright?
So, most every day, I’ve got a choice to make about whether I pick up the basketball or throw him around on the furniture or put my shoes back on to go to the tree swing… or whether I don’t. And while I can easily play the “good dad” and “martyr” card and just do those things, it’s important for me to know in those moments that playing with my kids is not only good for them – it’s actually good for me, too, whether I feel it in the moment or not.
In fact, I can think of four reasons why playing with my kids tonight might be the very best thing I can do:
1. To see the kingdom.
Jesus told us that to receive the kingdom of God, we must receive it as a child (Mark 1:15). That means, I believe, that there is something about the innocence, genuineness, and simplicity so naturally found in children that is necessary for us to truly understand and walk in the kingdom of God. But we, as adults, have had all that innocence, genuineness, and simplicity beaten out of us over the years. It’s a difficult thing to consider, then, how we as adults can relate to God as His children without bringing all that baggage with us. But how better to do that than to spend time with our own children? To see the world through their eyes? To learn from them as they learn from us? When we play with our children tonight, maybe we will actually get a greater glimpse of what life in the kingdom of God is meant to be like.
2. To restore your hope.
Hope is in short supply. I know there are a lot of promises to make America great again, and a whole lot of other stuff, but I can’t help but be a little pessimistic about the future. I look down the road and it’s hard not to fall into anxiety when I consider the trajectory of the world. But when I play with my kids, I find my hope restored in a near miraculous kind of way. For these children have very little worries about tomorrow. They know instinctively that tomorrow has enough worries of its own and are able to live in the joy of the moment they have before them. Playing with these kids restores my hope, not because it makes me think that tomorrow is going to be better, but because doing so reminds me that there is another Father who is not anxious at all about it.
3. To reset your priorities.
Quite simply, playing with my kids is important. It shows them that they matter, for in doing so I am giving them the most precious of gifts, the thing that runs out every day and then runs out again tomorrow – time. But because that resource is so scarce, I also have to be very careful with how I spend it. There are so many urgent things that I could give that resource to, but these little ones whom God has entrusted to my care should be in that consideration. Because, though, I know they are going to be there every day, it’s very easy to simply assume they are cared for, feel loved, and feel secure. But when I make myself play with them, I do a hard reset on my priorities. I force myself not to assume, but to actually make a decision to prioritize that which matters most.
4. To act like a disciple.
Every time we intentionally choose to put someone else’s ahead of our own, we are acting like a disciple of Jesus. This is what it means to die, and if we want to follow after Jesus, we must do so daily (Luke 9:23). Granted, it’s not a big thing to choose to shoot a few hoops or play hide and seek, but choosing to do so is indicative of a larger choice we have already made. That is, that we will live not according to our own desires, but under the lordship of the true King. When we make simple, everyday choices like this, not to presume upon what we believe to be our rights to a few hours in the recliner, but instead give over our entitlement for the sake of another, we are cooperating with the forming work of the Holy Spirit.
Parents, play with your kids tonight. Do it for their sake, but please don’t let it be lost on your that doing so is for your sake as well.