“To discern what is truly essential we need space to think, time to look and listen, permission to play, wisdom to sleep, and the discipline to apply highly selective criteria to the choices we make.” - Greg Mckeown
The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” in not a minimalist manifesto, in fact, it is about the pursuit of a more abundant life where you provide the maximum contribution. It flies in the face of our western cultural sensibilities that says the only path to “more” is through doing “more.” It also flies in the face, interestingly enough, in the way we often measure ministry success.
Ironically, it is all very consistent with the life of Jesus. He repeatedly walked past the urging of the disciples to address the incredible ministry “opportunities” in front of him. As God incarnate, how could He walk past obvious need? The only thing He knew for certain, was that He was to be about His Father’s business. He accomplished far more, by doing less of precisely the right things He was created to do.
Something deep within in myself wants to yell, “Amen!”.
But another part of me isn’t so comfortable with that.
McKeown advocates more space, sleep, and play. He has loads of data to back up all the benefits of each, but let’s look at just one of those that seems the most antithetical to accomplishing much with our lives… "play." He says this about play:
“Play is anything you do for the simple joy of doing it rather than as a means to an end. It can lead to brain elasticity, adaptability, and creative breakthroughs. Play engages our mind and fuels exploration because it broadens the range of options available to us and boosts the executive function of the brain and its planning, prioritizing, and deciding; play is also a powerful antidote to stress.”
We were in an all day meeting with a group of successful businessmen. One of them is extraordinarily accomplished:
- Elder/leader of a large home church aggregation.
- Runs a successful business building a third location.
- Is on the board of a faith based school he help found.
- Has coached the school's basketball team to several state titles.
- Actively involved in the lives of his 11 children, various son/daughter-in-laws, and numerous grandchildren’s lives.
- Avid hunter.
I asked him what sort of role “play” has had in his life. I assumed, given his age and his incredible level of accomplishment, that this might be one of those things that didn’t seem to fit into his schedule. But he said,
“We play a lot.”
And then he said something that we’ll never forget (as he often does), “The greatest determinant in how much we play is trust.”
- If we don’t have the faith required to trust that everything is going to be okay…
- If we don’t honestly believe that nothing escapes His hand…
- If we don’t know that He has overcome this world…
- If we don’t believe that He hasn’t given us more than we can handle…
- If we don’t know that we aren’t the master of our own fates…
- If we don’t believe that anything can happen outside of our efforts…
…permissioning yourself to play is unlikely. The essential and necessary ingredient to partaking in this most essential of things in order to make your highest contribution… is faith. My inability to play and simply do nothing with some of my time (which McKeown has proven has incredible essential value), is correlated to my lack of faith and trust.
Are you finding time to play in your busy schedule?
Why aren’t you, given the apparent value and essential nature of playing?
How is your lack of faith or the inability to trust the reason you can’t?