My blue Schwinn came equipped with a flower adorned white plastic basket, which I promptly removed. The requested three foot sissy bar was a righteous addition. And that white banana seat, sooo dang cool! Kool-Aid ice cubes and drinks from the garden hose would quench my thirst after a long bike ride – Oreos twisted apart, cream first, saving the chocolate cookie for last with a big swig from a frosty glass of milk. Summer was on!
I was born in June. Summer is my season. Hot steamy days and cool evenings found me out until dusk when my mother rang that horrid cow bell. Oh why couldn’t she whistle like David’s mother! Gosh, how easy it was to get up early on a school-free summer day. Unchecked we kids had quite the adventures. I spent my days before 4th grade with tether ball, jump rope, four-square, swimming, pajama parties, dancing to the sounds of the 60 and early 70’s, venturing farther from home on our bikes, rolling down grassy hills, laughing until I almost peed my pants and catching fire flies. Oh my, I knew how to play well.
Sadly, that would also be the summer I would experience my first remembrance of sexual harm. And yes, it would involve play. She was 3 years older. Everyone in our neighborhood wanted an invitation to play with Misty. She was pretty and popular. I was delighted that she had knocked at my door and asked to play – Me, the daughter of the only divorced mother on the block, perhaps in my personal community. At first time with Misty was good, so, so fun. I went to her house, she came to mine. I did things with her family and enjoyed these moments with a “real” family.
Then, one day Misty wanted to play “prince and princess”. She was the prince; I was the princess underneath the fragrant pines of my back yard. The moment came quickly and caught me off guard. Misty held me close, as her hands moved to places I was told that Prince Charming always touched with the princess he loved the best. I was confused. It felt good, I wanted to be loved the best and I knew it was wrong. After she was finished, she left me abruptly.
The days that followed left me riding my bike all alone. Something was said to the other kids in the neighborhood as they stared, whispered and giggled as I passed. I would knock on Misty’s door to see what had happened. Her mother said Misty was too busy to play. I asked what I had done wrong. “Misty needs friends more her own age.” Her mother replied. Misty would not play with me again.
Oh my, how the carefree summer days changed. Suddenly, evil snatched my heart and body out of the realm of innocence, sweetness and goodness. Ashamed, I told no one. I wasn’t sure my mother could handle it, besides she had her own problems. Unprotected and alone, I figured out life and filled in the blanks – I was bad. I couldn’t name how I had been harmed – I just knew I hurt. And play…well, for a soon to be 4th grader that just seemed to get you into trouble. These thoughts soon all validated by a young neighbor man in his twenties who watched my loneliness and came to play tetherball with me – eventually he would sexually abuse me for years. So play became all about conquering, I’d literally bleed for a win. I sent my child-self out to war, instead of out to play.
To take part in an enjoyable activity simply for the sake of amusement – No way! I would not put my heart in such peril. You know the ability to risk failure with all your heart and still have fun win or lose. Color outside of the lines and allow your heart to fill with desire. All things required for play. Oh no, I could not bear the grief of failure; desire brought angst, while amusement was way too risky. It seemed better to be dead to all those things.
At twenty I married a man who enjoyed taking pleasure in fun. He was more than a bit confused by my response to losing a game of Trivial Pursuit. “I will never play this game again!” I spat. And so it went with tennis, bowling or any other form of play. Oh how I wish there were magic words – It took time to untangle the many lies attached to my desire and redeem even a small amount of pleasure in play. Heck, pleasure period! As an adult I began to explore my story, name harm, hear Gods truth and become hungry for more. And it has been a continuing process to “thieve back” the beauty of play that was stolen from me as a child.
My husband is peeking over my shoulder as I write. He asks, “So Robyn, what have you been doing for fun lately? How are you enjoying play?” Yikes…if he has to ask, then life has either gotten way too serious, I’ve hidden my heart again or things are just way too busy. Unlike in our youth, our play as an adult does take some intentionality. My heart loved his invitation to play.
I am a girl, a woman who was created for extravagant wild play. I bet you are too. Gone are the days of my blue Schwinn. Yet, my imagination is copious and energy – although I’m getting older – is abundant. Oh how I love to have fun! My heart has reengaged with the faith, hope and love of my God. I have faith in a God who is big enough to take care of me and help me breathe deeply – even when I fear my failure and think I will die. I find my heart hoping for good things, anticipating a future created with God, and I’m beginning to dream and play big! My heart now has the ability to reveal love with the ability to give, receive and play. Moreover, in the many seasons that I do forget who I am created to be, I have those who loving remind me of who and whose I am.
So, ladies, its SUMMER!! It’s June!! Let’s play! And if you can’t bear the thought…please find someone safe to share your story of harm with – it just might save your life. It did mine.
Check out the following links for resources:
The Story Workshop www.allendercenter.org
Journey Groups www.ohmin.org
Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 32 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose. Robyn writes here. n
Robyn what a beautiful explanation of how evil seeks to ruin our play and how redemption always wins us back. I’m feeling so inspired now to find play this summer!
Thank you Anna! It was a great reminder to me as I wrote. I have been playing with paints, flowers and words! Have fun this summer. 😊
Robyn!!! I love your writing and how you take us on journeys unexpected. Such a heartbreaking story you shared and I am so sorry Misty stole so much from you. And, every good story causes us to want to hear more. I love how we have been on this journey together of finding freedom and healing through exploring our stories and being set free through the experience. You spur me on in good ways. I love how your husband said, “So Robyn what have you been doing for fun lately!” Because of reading that I already went for a walk this morning and it’s going to be my hourly sentence I ask myself today as I babysit and care for others.
Becky, thank you for your very kind words. And yes, it has been a sweet surprise to be on this freedom journey together. Hoping our paths cross again soon. Play with breathless abandon my friend!
Robyn, dear one, it is no wonder I was drawn to you so when I first experienced your teaching and parts of your story this past October. And becoming Facebook friends has allowed me to glimpse further into your life, your heart, your creativity and child-like delight in butterflies and coloring and, and, and…thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a treasure to follow as you follow Christ into this wild redemptive life He offers girls like you and me every single day! I am blessing you tonight for all the Good gifts you are sharing with us!
Wow, thank you! I do feel so like a child at times…and I like it! Love that our lives have intersected. Keep in touch.
Created for extravagant wild play? I want to say “yikes” to that, and yet it also resonates somewhere deep inside me. I’m so glad you are reclaiming those places in your story where so much was taken.
Oh Janet, I sometimes say “yikes” too, but I cannot deny extravagant play is a part of me. Yes, reclaiming and embracing – whew…such a risk at times. And when it happens, such great joy!