Reaching for Play

Clouds move in and the wind picks up. Sunny, blue skies turn gray and thunder ripples west. Another Saturday’s desperate attempt at play, thwarted. Our family story, on repeat. Stuck in a motif we’re rather tired of, weary of.

It began while living overseas. In a megacity of concrete and traffic and millions and millions of bodies, we craved space, nature. We brought picnics to the waterfront patch of green, but stray cats and dogs forced us to move. We bought bikes to transport on the ferry across the sea to an island without cars, but the hordes of people made it virtually impossible to peddle. We left early on weekend mornings to reach a forest outside of the sprawl, spent a refreshing few hours in the trees, before sitting in endless hours of congestion homeward. The hot, stop and go sucked the life from us.

We left the megacity with weary souls.

In the Pacific Northwest, we tried camping with friends. We emptied the nearby camp store of tarps and they were still insufficient to protect us from the onslaught of rain. Years later, when we had all moved to sunny Colorado, we tried again. Memorial Day in the mountains brought rain. We went south in June: Rain. We went to the desert the next year: Rain. We went east to Nebraska: Rain.

It became laughable, so long as we were together. But alone as a family, after a tiresome week of holding trauma for clients or teaching about trafficking or struggling with school friends, we reach for play. When it alludes us time after time, it is not so funny. It is the very opposite of funny.

Relatives own 4-wheelers and we park them in our garage for the summer. It takes effort to hook up the trailer and drive to accessible roads. It is Memorial Day when we first make the effort, to celebrate a birthday and play together in the mountains. The sky is sunny until we arrive. Then it turns dark and begins to hail. The next time we make the effort, one of the two breaks down and we tow it back to the trailer. Then it rains. We try the lake. We borrow paddle boards and kayaks and push off the beach in the hot afternoon sun. It is glorious, for a while. Then the sky turns and the wind picks up and we are too cold to sit in the water.

If our family has a story, it involves the thwarting of play. The kind that sends you home early, or forces you to huddle in a van all afternoon while a storm passes, or finds you walking through a farm with bloody shins and missing river shoes and punctured tubes. It’s the sad kind. Not the tragic, life-altering kind (and forgive me for whining at all in comparison!) Just the “what the heck” kind.

The kind that makes us angry at the enemy. The kind that our friends mourn and rejoice over on our behalf: you had an uneventful fun trip! Praise God! The kind that makes us bond as a crew of five and always provides fodder for stories. The kind that keeps us reaching still more.

And I wonder, where are you reaching for still more?

What is the theme of your story? Is there an open wound, big or as small as it may be, that is constantly getting the salt poured on? How are your efforts to pursue goodness, justice, or steadfastness thwarted?

What I know is this: play is a pursuit of delight and thus, a sacred gift.

I imagine most of the things we feel thwarted in are pursuits of the sacred. It is because we have an enemy hell bent on stealing, killing, and destroying that which brings life. Which is to say, all that is holy.

Women, I have no answers for my family. We are reaching for play again this weekend – heading for a day in the mountains. What I’ve learned is that the one for whom we ultimately desire, the author and maker of play, is worth it.

Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at