July 23, 2014
Written by Steven Liechty

Donna Schaper

" . . . so that you will not be puffed up." - 1 Corinthians 4:20  

Being puffed up is what happens when we lose our sense of humor. Being puffed up is when we lose our sense of play.  We become more likely to indulge some kind of violence, either the "micro-aggressions" of bad manners or the big kind where people physically hurt each other or can't imagine a life where they aren't winning or on top.

Stuart Brown, an authority on children's psychiatry, says that children who don't learn life through the rough and tumble of play often become violent. He defines play as purposeless activity that prevents violence to self and others. It is how we learn to relate without hurting. Play keeps us from being fixed and rigid. It is our most animal part.  Chimpanzees self-handicap, so they won't turn a fuss or fight into a war or a contest. The big ones help the littler ones learn how to connect.

Play gives us a glimpse of the divine. It is the opposite of a contest where somebody wins. It is rough and tumble. Nobody wins or loses; they just connect.

Maybe God also self-handicaps. God relates through a purposeless so deep that it results in human community. God, who could have laid it all out, left it all open.  God is not puffed up, even though, if anybody could be, God could be. God gave us a playful freedom of the will.


Restore our sense of humor, O God, and teach us to be so purposeless that our lives deepen towards You. Amen. 

About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Grace at Table: Small Spiritual Solutions to Large Material Problems.

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