Last week during Vacation Bible School, we repeatedly sang one of the top five favorite songs among the children and youth of St. Paul. It is a ridiculous and beautiful song called “The Hippo Song.” It tells the story of creation and has some fun actions, which are sung at an increasingly faster speed until it is just chaos. The last bit of the song goes, “and in between God had some fun! God made a hippo that weighed a ton. Hip-hip-hippopotamus! Hip hip hooray! God made all of us!”
It is a playful song that invites us to think about a playful God. The song describes God having such a delightful time creating the world that God decided to get creative by making a hilarious hippo (Imagine how much God cracked up when the platypus was made!). We often think of God as stern or judging, serious and deeply compassionate. This song helps expand our thinking about God to include images of God as playful, delighting in creation – and in us.
God takes delight in us. Trusting in our belovedness might be just what we need to do the kind of courageous and difficult things that faith and compassion demand. But what might happen if we not only seek to live with God’s very serious commitment to the world, but also God’s playful delight in it, too?
It’s a beautiful world, after all. The root of the word “recreation” is re-create, to be made new. Resting and simply being, enjoying creation and honoring relationships are ways God renews us. Play could be the perfect antidote to fear and anxiety. I think Jesus might even be nudging us to play more when he told his followers to be more like children (Matthew 18:3).
So perhaps in these summer days you can find some way to play. Be silly. Do something that has no purpose but joy. Sing in your car. Dance in the kitchen. Savor each bite of corn on the cob. Chase fireflies. Remember a ridiculous joke. Laugh with a stranger. Look up from your phone. Simply have more fun.
These days are full of heartbreak and worry and fear. Communities and individuals know suffering that is unimaginable. We cannot ignore all that is happening around and among us. But in order to take seriously the work of justice and mercy, we also need time to play, to delight in the world around us and not take ourselves so seriously. After all, it’s pretty hard to want to save a world that we do not love.
– Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor