Play for Fun| By Ellie Saul

Have you ever met someone gifted, successful, sharp, smiling, convincingly charming and delightful even, on the outside… and then in one question realize she is barely hanging on to a glimpse of a thread for dear life in so much pain?

What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:45

Within minutes of meeting Mrs. P, I knew a few things about her. She is poised, manicured, dressed to impress and ready to tell me all about herself. Mrs. P has a very successful husband who is older than her, a grandson she teaches all about the Bible when she keeps him once a month, and her favorite thing about herself to mention is that she is the piano player at a large, prominent  church. She plays for multiple services and in impressive choral groups and even travels with her talent. She actually works hand in hand with “the” pastor.

“Oh wow! You’re amazing!” I said, “What’s your favorite song to play?”

She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “I can play anything they tell me to.” 

“That’s so awesome! When no one is asking you to play… what do you like to play for fun?” I asked innocently.

She looked at me like there was an unfamiliar foul smell she couldn’t describe… puzzled… and quickly replied, “Oh no, I don’t play for fun.”

My heart broke. She doesn’t play for fun.

 Her elevator speech self description of prestige and success would make anyone feel like she has it all together… I couldn’t even respond, but she sure did… I think my question opened the flood that is really in her heart because she started talking about losing a child, losing her parents, and losing her job in one year with a stoic, emotionless face. Quickly she described again all of the work she is doing with music now that she is retired against her will. She listed countless tasks, travels, and ministries concluding that her faith is what keeps her. 

My heart broke again. That doesn’t sound like faith at all…it sounds like work

She is grieving and hurting and only has the words to describe to me that being very busy every day with important tasks with important people at important places and playing the piano **not for fun** is the “faith” that helps her cope. 

When we are grieving we can easily come to a place where we “survive” by working and filling our day with importing tasks. I’ve done it.  When I was grieving I needed to hear that I had permission to fall apart, permission to drop every single plate I was spinning, permission to seek counsel, permission to rest, permission to mourn… and most importantly for me... I needed permission to play for fun, to experience guiltless joy again. 

Sometimes grief makes us so sad and so lonely and we don’t even know how it happens… but somewhere we start feeling guilty for joy because it feels somehow disrespectful to the loss or grief we are experiencing.

If you are hurting today… If you have an amazing elevator self-accolade speech that holds the rivers of pain in your heart back only long enough for a stranger to ask one innocent question that opens the flood of grief you have… let me give you permission today to do 5 things from the Bible. 

  1. You have permission to fall apart. Mourning is not weakness, it is a vehicle God can use for us to be comforted and heal. (Matthew 5:4)
  2. You have permission to drop every spinning plate (you can pick them up later if you even want to pick them up again. Even if they break, someone can sweep them up for you for now) (Proverbs16:9,Exodus 14:14)
  3. You have permission to seek counsel. Experts can help you talk through things and look at things in ways you never imagined. (Proverbs 12:15)
  4. You have permission to rest.  Sometimes resting is discipline and learned and can feel like a punishment if you are a go-getter… it’s for your good. Our bodies literally heal when we rest (Matthew 11:28)
  5. You have permission to PLAY FOR FUN! You have permission to laugh, sing, jump, clap, and have guiltless joy even if you are suffering loss. Joy does not diminish your grief or make your hurt any less significant. It just releases strength that you very well may need to get through this pain. Jesus Himself considered JOY on the cross experiencing the deepest pain of His life on earth. (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 4:4, Nehemiah 8:10)