Choosing to Play in the Mud

BJ and the boy to the Children’s Museum last week while I was working.  There is a large sandbox in the back where kids can dig and parents can sit along a bench encircling their play. BJ removed his shoes, handed him a shovel and encouraged him into the faux-beach scene.  He smiled at those round cheeks and then looked up to find a grandfather in the sand, shoes off, pants rolled up, toes dug in, fully immersed in playing with his granddaughter.

BJ texted me a description of what he saw and together we shared the same response – He knows something many of us either don’t know or have forgotten. He was paying attention.

I recently began reading Love Does by Bob Goff.  The principle idea behind Bob’s book is that love does something.  It doesn’t just talk about itself.  It actually shows itself with action.  This grandfather understood that…and he wasn’t going to miss a minute by just observing his granddaughter play.  He was playing too.

Yesterday morning I was trying to dry my hair while a playful toddler ran around my room.  I say “trying” because this usually involves 60-seconds of drying my hair, followed by 5 minutes of him crying for me to stop, and then another 60-seconds of drying my hair.  And so the cycle goes.  I wouldn’t want any of my fellow mothers-of-toddlers to read this and think I somehow have it together enough to dry my hair.  I do not.

I suggested Ian dance to the music we had playing, but he wasn’t very interested as long as it meant I was still going to be doing something else.  Without giving it much thought at all, I put down the hair dryer and started to dance.  He immediately joined.  Bouncing, rocking, spinning.  We both spun around the room until we fell down dizzy and laughing.  In that moment, I was struck by one thought – when we are fully engaged, we invite others to be fully engaged with us. 

The grandfather who was knee deep in sand understood this.  He understood the importance of being fully engaged with his granddaughter, not wasting time by being half-there.   Being fully engaged means being present.  It means stepping into the moment and all that it offers. It means putting aside outside thoughts/fears for the opportunity to give your honest presence to another person.  It means remembering a new person's name 30-seconds after they told me because I was actually paying attention.  It means closing my computer and listening to BJ when he talks to me about something that he finds interesting.  It means taking the time to visit my grandparents, even when I have errands to run.  It means calling my sister on the phone, even when I have 5 loads of laundry to do and dinner to make.  It means getting outside and playing in the mud with Ian, even when I already took a shower.  It means joining in the story, rather than just observing it.

When we are fully engaged, we display love in action.  We show our love rather than just talk about it.  Because to quote Bob Goff, "love does."

But here's the tricky part - being fully engaged is hard.  It's dirty.  It's uncomfortable.  It's easier to be half-there.  It's easier to watch.  It's easier to covet someone else's story than it is to force ourselves to engage in our own stories.  It's easier to watch TV than drive to the park.  It's easier to read my friends' facebook statuses than it is to call them and ask about their lives.  Because at the end of the day, I'm exhausted.  It doesn't matter how much I checked off my list, there are still ten more things to do.  So it's easier to be half-there, than to be fully engaged.

When we are fully engaged though, we not only step more fully into the life of our own stories, we also invite other people to come along.  It's contagious.  And I think it's the way God wanted us to live along.  It's definitely the way Jesus interacted with people.  But somewhere along the way we took the truth that life is worth really living and bought into the lie that all we can do is survive the daily grind.  We traded opportunities for life-giving engagement with people for surface conversations.  We traded adventure for comfort.

So I'm going to play in the mud, even if I already took a shower...because playing in the mud with my baby that is not much of a baby anymore is a much better story than sitting in a chair just thinking about it.  And when I dive in, he dives in too.

(Disclaimer for moms - I am NOT suggesting that every waking minute of your day should be spent playing with your children.  You need breaks too!  I often have to put him in his room with the gate up so I can just take a minute to breathe by myself.  It's all about balance.  Take care of yourself mammas!)