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Playing in the Divine Feminine

Good morning! When Deborah Hayes emailed me about being a part of this summer’s exploration of the Divine Feminine, I was definitely interested. She explained that for Sunday worship services, there would be three major themes: eat, pray, play; and asked which I would like to approach.

In a moment of courage, I decided on “play” because, well, I don’t very much, and it would be good to step outside my comfort zone. As that moment of courage quickly began to fade, I thought, “Why did I choose play? Why didn’t I choose eat? I know how to eat. I even hit pretty often on pray; but play?! What am I going to do with that? 

Full confession here. My first step was to find what turned out to be my five books on the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. This, and other writings that were not included in our New Testament canon are intriguing and expansive and hopeful in many ways, but you know what they don’t address? Play.

And as Elizabeth clarified last week, the Divine Feminine and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene are two different birds. My point being, I needed a different mindset for my ponderings on play.

So I put those books aside; not away, but aside, and went out to my little patio garden to think about play. And then I went in to look up “play” in the dictionary. Okay, it’s a slow process; I need a little grace here.

What I found kind of surprised me, and was a worthy distraction from my real need to play with the idea of  play and the divine feminine. What I found was a full column, a full half page of definitions of the word play! And after reading them I no longer felt quite so stogey and unplayful because most of them were: an attempt to move the ball down the field, as in football, or “to behave or conduct oneself in a specified way (i.e. to play it safe). Or even “to deceive or mock, as to play a trick on someone.”

Well, that’s not what I was looking for. But buried deep within all that small print were two that caught my eye. One was, delightfully, “to frolic,” which is way beyond my ken, but speaks to my soul, nonetheless. I do think we would be healthier, happier, more rounded human beings if we frolicked more.

The second was “the spontaneous activity of children,” which sounds much more wholesome to me than moving a ball down the field.

“The spontaneous activity of children.” That kind of lets us adults off the hook. But play as a divine gift was not meant just for children. Play is essential for our well-being. Play is the embodied recognition of the mystery and glory of Creation. Play is the embodiment of joy and thankfulness for the gifts God has given us – life, laughter, beauty, breath. Play takes us out of our to-do lists and into this moment; this moment of creativity and celebration.

I do think most (not all, but many) adults could learn a thing or two about play from children. 

Watch children play: it can be a glimpse of the life God designed us to have – a time when we were naked and unashamed before God and each other. They move and create in the moment, as the spirit of goodness and delight moves them. I’m a preschool teacher; there are also those less than creative and delightful moments, too, but children playing show us how to be in the moment.

One reason adults often need a nudge (or in my case, a serious push) to play, is that we, over time, forget that we are good; that we carry the Divine Spark within us; that we, each of us individually and as a big, messy, collective of human beings, are truly, deeply, fully beloved by God, by the Holy, by the Good of which Mary Magdalene spoke. 

I think we forget to play, or forget how to play when too much distance gets between our souls, our centers, our hearts and the truth, the foundation of how thoroughly, how absolutely, how unconditionally we are loved.

It is all too easy to forget; in the midst the busyness of life that we are inherently good and have what we need within. “For the child of true Humanity exists within you,” Jesus told those around him. Don’t be deceived and pulled in one direction and another in looking for what you need. You have what you need.

I think we forget how to play because we believe we don’t have what we need; we start to believe that we’re not enough; that we might look foolish. But when we hear, “For the child of true Humanity exists within you. Follow it! Those who search for it will find it,” we are reminded.

We’ve got all we need within ourselves. And when that wobbles, we can look around at our community and be filled and nourished again. I believe we feel freer to frolic and play when we replenish our joy in life by recognizing our child of the true Humanity within, and creating time and space for the immediacy of play.

H.L. Mencken, journalist and social critic of the early 1900’s, once said of Puritans that they were “people who have a deep, foreboding fear that somebody, somewhere, might be having a good time.” Friedrich Nietzsche once observed that Christians “have no joy,” and should he ever come to believe in God, he would only believe in “a God who danced.” Sadly, he never discovered such a God. 

Matthew Fox, on the other hand, came to a different conclusion. He says, “Creativity is at the heart of the universe, and play is at the heart of creativity. Without play, there is no true celebration of life.” Play can be both a creator of joy and the reason for joy.

So now, we are going to play!

We’re going to play Bible Jeopardy,…(two teams, etc.) 

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