The Play’s the Thing
The snow was coming down so thick last Sunday viewers in the stands had trouble seeing the field. From their toasty homes TV viewers could barely make out the players, particularly the Indianapolis Colts in their white uniforms. Even the players couldn’t see the players. Buffalo Bills Lorenzo Alexander was caught on mic saying, “They have white on? It’s like looking at ghosts that are wearing blue numbers.”
"They have white on? It's like looking at ghosts that are wearing blue numbers."
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 14, 2017
A lake effect blizzard was pounding Buffalo. More importantly, it was pounding the NFL’s Bills and Colts back in time.
One snap shows what I mean. The ball was somewhere near the 8-yard-line. Who could really tell where? The Bills quarterback goes back to pass, lofts one to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin cutting towards the end zone. A tumbling catch! Touchdown! And Benjamin continued sliding out of the end zone like a toboggan into a snowbank. (See it at 1:22 of the video)
The highlight struck me with delight. This was just like the few times times I got to play football in the snow. And like the many times I imagined playing football in the snow. “What fun! That looks so fun!”
And the players making snow angels?! All that was missing was mom telling ’em it was time for dinner and some linebacker getting his tongue stuck on the goalpost.
Then came a somber thought. That’s the first time there’s been anything fun about this NFL season. It’s not just the protests or vicious hits, it’s also just the business. Although it is called a game, not many seem to be acting like it.
Where is the play? They are called players. Each time the ball is snapped it’s called a play. If someone makes a diving catch or a difficult sack it’s called a great play. You’ve got run plays, pass plays, option plays, play-action. These are all drawn up into diagrams and kept in a playbook. Again, but where is the play?
But let’s not single out the NFL. Perhaps we, as a society, have lost our sense of play. Some days I know I have.
Play … and Live … in the Manner of Children
The dictionary tells us to “play” is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than serious or practical purpose.” The biblical Greek word is paizó: “to play in the manner of children.” However, I’m not talking about demanding The Stream putting a swingset in the field outside. Or even my wife letting me run to see The Last Jedi when there are countertops to be done.
I’m talking about a state of mind.
When Jesus’ disciples asked who in the kingdom was the greatest all-pro, the Lord replied, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
How many times do we engage in an activity as an enjoyment or recreation, but treat it as if it had serious or practical purpose? Before you answer that, consider your last ten tweets or retweets about something in the news. Did you go about it in the manner of a child? Or in the manner of a warrior on Game of Thones?
When driving do you share the road the way you might have shared a cookie, or like you were racing a chariot in ancient Rome?
The Message translation of Philippians 2:14-15 captures some sense of this:
Do everything readily and cheerfully — no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.
So, this weekend, let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
And whatever field God puts you on this week, you too can become a snow angel.