I’m learning to believe that God sets our hearts free to play and experience joy. This is a concept that recently has been knocking on the door of my heart and introducing a new rhythm of being. I have spent most of my adult life serving God in various venues: church, parachurch ministries, mentoring, and even the nonprofit ministry that I founded. All of these vocations have felt really big to my short life experience. It has been enormous to hold, and at times I’ve felt burdened. While I bless the work of my hand, I see many times I have missed God’s heart for me.

God is much more playful than we allow ourselves to believe. No matter what stint of the journey we are on, He is inviting us to be more like a child—to simply rest and play.

For so long, I’ve believed that I received healing and freedom in order to be used by God. I thought that healing was a gift sent with stipulations and instructions, not an invitation of abundance.  With that viewpoint, every inch of reclaimed ground came with a responsibility to see how I could use my past for the kingdom. I’d experienced God take what evil had written for destruction and rewrite it into a sonnet of restoration. Yet, life’s elements of rest and play felt absent and obsolete. I felt more like a tool than a child.

Recently I spent a few afternoons throwing pottery on my wheel. Nothing grounds me more than feeling clay between my fingers, trusting intuition, and letting the pots take shape. As the wheel turns, I become one with the clay, allowing the process to shape my heart as I shape the pots. There is no agenda when I come to the wheel, no dividend to be met, and no amount of production that must be reached. It’s just me, the clay, and a Spotify playlist. It’s an invitation to rest, delight, and create.

Throwing is a messy process—a mix between earth, water, and subtle movement. I leave with mud on my fingers, toes, legs, and arms. It’s fun to get dirty! As a little girl I used to make mud pies in the backyard, laying them out one by one to dry, and wait patiently so my imaginary friends and dog could partake. It feels fitting that in my adult life I return to play in the mud. There is something divine about returning to our childlike selves. It’s an act of letting our guard down and our agendas go. Throwing pots is part of reclaiming that holy ground in my heart.

I’ve often asked myself if God cares about our pleasures, delights, or desires. It has been a challenging concept to shape, living much of my existence in a conservative context that has communicated the Christian walk as an input/output system with little room left for the fluidity of rest and play. However, if I look at God as a master who heals me, only to turn around and use me, then the relationship feels abusive and incommutable. I’m learning that this is not God’s heart. His heart desires to set us free to play and return to our childlike roots, letting Him carry the heavy load. I’m learning God wants us to navigate this life with the heart of a child, leaning into Father God, trusting the whisper of the Holy Spirit, and letting Jesus’s kindness transform us.

Returning to that muddy space is a messy, visceral process. It’s like the simplicity of making mud pies in the backyard or throwing pots made of clay. It’s a journey with no direct navigation, but instead the echoing invitation of relationship.

Matthew 11:28-30 asks, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I believe the true battle is living out this scripture. Evil seeks to steal goodness and joy from the deeply loving and abiding connection that our hearts have to the God of the universe. There, in that heart space, burdensome life diminishes, and we can begin to look at the world with childlike rest and faith. Over time we find that God delights in our enjoyment of clay between our fingers, the laughter of our children, the sound of Bon Iver, and the crosswind running against us as we bike up a mountain. “Why?” you may wonder. He imprinted those desires on our hearts, and He created us to uniquely love what we love. God sets us free so we can experience the full volume of abundant life found in the holy awe and trust of the Trinity. It’s a life of abundance, a far cry from the scarcity of bearing the load. It’s a turning towards daughtership and sonship as we let our spirits abound in rest, joy, and play!

 

 


Anna SmithAnna is passionate, a lover of God and sunrises. She is a wanna be poet and pour over coffee connoisseur. And in her garden she grows Drift Roses (of all things). She is a Master Level Social Worker and a 200 Registered Yoga Teacher. In 2012, along with her husband Chris, she co-founded Restore One, an anti-trafficking ministry that serves men and boys. Journeying through her own recovery process, she understands that healing is a painful yet beautiful path we must take to receive freedom. Anna believes healing is possible for everyone. Anna enjoys throwing pottery, writing and teaching yoga and spending time with Chris.