Do you play?

It’s a serious question.

Take a moment and think about it.

Do you play?

When was the last time you unabashedly ran through water? Played in the sand? Even read a book from start to finish? A book that wasn’t related to work in some way?

I ask because yesterday I had a brief conversation with a friend who mentioned she was heading out of town this coming weekend on a girl’s trip to the beach and she was feeling torn between doing so and leaving her family — she was experiencing mom guilt.

It made me pause for a moment to reflect on the time when my kids were littles and I was trying to balance everything — work, family, worship — there wasn’t much playtime involved. Not only did I feel like my cup was half empty, but I felt as if I was constantly waiting for someone to come knock what I did have in my cup over and I would be left watching the last drop of _______________ (fill in the blank; energy, patience, etc.) spill out. I was not just burning the candle at both ends. I was on fire.

Filling the Cup

When I was young, back in the 1970s, my mom stayed home with us. She worked hard in our home. Chores were always done, dinner was always on the table, she generally knew where I was and what I was up to. My dad worked long hours and she was, for the most part, single-parenting Monday – Friday. Come Saturday, there was a different rhythm in the house.

Saturdays were my mom’s day. She would head to the beauty salon to have her hair done. There she would meet other ladies from the neighborhood who were doing the same. Among those ladies, she would meet a woman who was to become her life-long best friend.

Hours would pass and when the pampering was over, she would often follow up the appointment by lunching with her friend.

As a mother myself, I can now imagine the conversations they shared over those many meals. Discussions around parenting and marriage, for sure, but I wonder if there was talk around their dreams, hopes, and future days when the kids would be grown and gone.

Mom always returned from her Saturdays out with a smile on her face and a restored calmness. The air around her felt different. The difference was, her cup had been filled.

Fast forward a few decades and women aren’t just tending to the house anymore — add to that the many women who hold a full-time job out of the house while still trying to nurture their marriages and their children. For those that are single, it may look like service to others.

Pretty soon that cup is looking awfully dry. The drops that remain in the bottom are barely enough to douse the pure exhaustion she feels most days. And yet, even when there’s so little left, we tend to continue to give. I’m not sure where this expectation started or why it’s so prevalent in the women I have met along the way.

This isn’t how we were built and I don’t believe it’s what God intended for us, or our relationships.

Psalm 23

Psalm 23:5 (NLT) reads:

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

God wants to fill our cups. But it’s difficult to fill a moving target.

When He created the world he did so in six days. On the seventh, He rested. God rested. He looked over all the work He had done, all that He had accomplished in the past week, He took satisfaction in His good work and then He rested. God didn’t need to rest — He was teaching us, through His example that rest is GOOD. That all work and no rest is not how He intended us to live our lives.

There is a Jewish ceremony performed using a chalice that is often sitting in a bowl. During the ceremony, wine is poured into the cup just past the point of overflowing. The bowl catches the excess. I love that imagery. It reminds me that when my cup overflows; when I am filled beyond my brim with joy, rest, peace, patience, love, it is so much easier to spill those things out onto others around me.

The Lesson of Play

My friend felt guilty she was going to leave her family for some personal playtime. I’m sure she was considering all the “things” and “what ifs”. What if her children needed her when they couldn’t sleep and she was gone? What if dad ran short on time and didn’t get dinner made when everyone was hungry? What if, what if, what if?

But what if her family was blessed because she left for a short time? What if they spent time with dad playing games and watching movies? What if Mom filled her cup and returned refreshed and excited to see her family and embrace them after a few days away. What if she felt restored and replenished and she could see her family through refreshed eyes? And what if her children learned an important lesson through her example?

What if the greatest lesson she is passing along was to her children is that work is important, but it isn’t everything. Play is important, too. That it’s okay to take a little time for yourself to replenish and restore your energy and your spirit and in turn, you will have more in your cup — that when your cup overflows you have so much more to give to others around you and to do so with a joyful heart.

It’s the example God first showed us. And one I pray we can pass down to the generations that follow us.

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