Toys of the Spirit

Our house at times, unfortunately, seems overrun by toys. And I know where a good portion of them come from—Grandparents. But for the bulk of the little buggers I have no idea where they come from. I think they may be multiplying. It’s as if God said on the eighth day, “Yea, let there be children’s toys and let them be fruitful and multiply and spread across the carpeted and hardwood floors so that adults will step on them…” Now I know this is a “first-world” problem in many ways. I’ve seen the floors of homes with children in Zimbabwe and they had just a few toys and the children were quite happy with just those few things. This is why I often threaten that I’ll remove all my girls’ toys and leave just a cardboard box for them to play with… but that of course never happens. So the “Battle of 2012: Revenge of the Toys” rages on (and it is never as cute as those insidious Toy Story movies).

Sometimes I take this issue of too many toys a little too seriously. My wife informs me of this when I make those I’ll-give-away-all-your-toys-empty-cardboard-box type of threats. At times I just need to loosen up and enjoy the “play” that happens with them all. However, it is often hard for us adults to enter back into that childlike state of play and vivid imagination. And sometimes we do the same thing when it comes to spiritual matters. Perhaps we become too concerned with our viewpoints and positions on spiritual issues, too serious about our roles in the institution, too preoccupied with getting things done that we forget to enjoy God. We forget to play (enjoy sabbath) and imagine (pray) about what God is doing in our lives and around us.

I was reminded of this at a family meal that somehow became a discussion about the fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). My 7 year old referred to them as the “toys of the Spirit” and I said “You mean the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?” She responded, “Yes, the toys of the Spirit.” Now I think Laylah was just trying to be funny, but I wondered afterward if she might be on to something. I know what St. Paul was doing when he described them as “fruit”, I get that. But most of the time we just eat fruit and think nothing more of it really. What if we did see the fruit of the Spirit also as the “toys” of the Spirit—pulling love and kindness off the shelf and playing with them with our friends and neighbors, leaving patience and joy laying around in our lives so that people stepped on them, taking goodness and peace out into the yard to throw around. I know that some days I could stand to play and imagine with these “toys” in a way that actually affects the people around me. It’s a reminder from the humor/wisdom of a 7 year old: Get the toys out and just play.

Just so once and a while I can still make those empty-cardboard-box speeches…