Each summer in Prince Edward Island, I pause on the dirt road and watch the gulls on the grassy field. I pull my jacket tighter around me against the wind, tug my hood over my head, and maybe, if the wind is strong enough to snatch my breath, turn and walk backwards into the wind. But the gulls stay standing, dozens of them, or hundreds, all facing fearlessly into the wind as though watching, waiting, sharing a single mind, a single attentiveness.
Out here in Vancouver, I sit by my window and watch the PEI gulls’ west coast cousins soar on windy currents, carried. They swoop and ascend again, circling, scarcely moving their wings. It looks like joy, like play. I want to soar too, to surrender to the wind and let it carry me rather than turning my back and pulling my jacket tighter.
What do the gulls remember that I don’t? How can they face so fearlessly into the wind, even play with or in or on it?
They don’t seem to care that wind collapses houses, tears up trees, and sinks boats.
They’re probably not aware that it also flies flags and dries towels, scatters seed and powers lightbulbs.
They don’t know that, for individuals and nations, it has often been God’s messenger, parting the Red Sea, removing the plague of locusts, and bringing quail for the people to eat. Or that the Spirit first came with a sound like the blowing of a violent wind.
Somewhere deep down they might know that it cleanses—sweeping the sky clean of clouds and blowing away chaff.
Something in them seems to simply accept that the wind is. That in it, or beyond or behind it, is a greater, stronger Reality, and if instead of fearing it, fighting it, or trying to figure it out, they turn into the wind and take off into it, trusting it to hold them, it will lift them, carry them.
Is it any wonder that their surrendered soaring looks like joy, freedom, play?
Their flight seems a fully alive game of tag with the God who also soars on the wings of the wind. (Psalm 18:10; 104:3-4)
The gulls know by instinct what I need to practice remembering:
Winds, even ones that threaten to snatch my breath, are God’s messengers and are under his control, carrying the power of his presence to both uplift and uproot, to scatter seed and offer energy and sweep life clean again.
It’s only when I think power needs to be my own, held in my own small grip, that I fear the wind.
Stephen King isn’t someone I read very often, but his advice to writers has me thinking:
“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.” (Stephen King, On Writing, p. 101)
It’s easy for work—even work that is a good gift from God, work that we enjoy and to which we are deeply and truly called—to take over our life. To become its center. That is, to become an idol.
On my way home from Afghanistan six years ago, someone gave me a picture. She saw me as a toddler, playing happily on the floor, my Father leaning forward to watch me with delight.
I’ve been asking God about that picture. I’m still learning how to live it.
God plays. How else do you explain clown fish and peacocks’ feathers and the homely comedy of a donkey’s bray?
Play can be a good gift from a loving Father, a gift He delights to give and to see us receive.
Play can be faith, a way of saying “You are God and I don’t have to run the world.”
So I’ve been asking God to teach me to play.
He began during last summer’s vacation when the day’s early sunbeam winked, one-eyed, through the string-hole in the blind, inviting me to come and play. Had I rolled over and closed my eyes again I would have closed my eyes to love, to life, to Him who was calling me to enter both. Not to play was not to pray.
This summer He’s gathering recruits from as far as England, bringing together all seven of my nieces and nephews ranging from less than a year to thirteen, as well as my siblings and their spouses and my parents, each with a unique and hilarious sense of humor.
Doctors take vacations. Teachers do. And engineers. And this writer needs a few weeks off too, to learn more deeply how to rest and play and let God take care of the world.
So I won’t be posting my regular Monday blogs through July. I’m not sure if I’ll write at all during these weeks. Like Stephen King’s desk, during July this blog is taking its place in the corner while I live life, receiving God’s good gifts and giving myself freely to God and to family. But play has a way of erupting into joy and creativity which flows over and begs to be shared. So it’s quite possible I’ll pop by here occasionally and drop in a photo or a few thoughts that seem too good to keep to myself. (If you’re not already signed up to receive my blog posts via email, feel free to do that so you don’t miss the fun.) And if you’re someone who looks forward to receiving my Monday posts and will miss them (—a humble thank you), please make yourself at home in the archives or peek back at these posts I’ve been revisiting myself lately as I ask God to teach me to receive His good gifts of rest and play:
Look forward to seeing you here again soon! And happy playing 🙂