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A Review of
Playdates with God: Having Childlike Faith in A Grownup World
Paperback: Leafwood, 2014.
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Reviewed by Zena Neds-Fox.
Laura Boggess starts her spiritual memoir Playdates with God with one of the most resonant spiritual dilemmas. Sehnsucht – a German word best translated as nostalgia or a deep longing for a far-off home. Or as CS Lewis puts it, “our best havings are wantings.” The blue flower – the desiring of some lasting, perfect thing to fulfill us. The hum in each person that reminds them, whether or not they want reminding, that they were made for more. That propulsion towards God is the journey Boggess takes us on; how she recognized it, how she entertained it, and what it has taught her, going down the roads it lead her to.
Playdates is quite readable, and though Boggess cites philosophical sources as her inspirations, she writes in an uncomplicated way that makes walking with God seem as plain as everyday potatoes. She’s a simple girl, admittedly so. When trying to locate what it is that will satisfy her soul, she lands at falling in love and all the giddy feelings that come along with it. She sets out to fall in love with her creator, over and over again, through a series of, as she calls them, playdates.
She starts out by an innocent trespass into a neighbor’s yard to jump on their trampoline. Later we find her spending a quiet time in a faceoff with a squirrel at her birdfeeder. She seems ridiculous as she waits beneath her windowsill with a super soaker ready to ambush the pilfering rodent. Over and over again Boggess becomes undignified and wants you to know it. She doesn’t care if you judge her because she wants to be beyond your judgment. She wants to be with God. She thinks she’s found a way to do it, and that’s important. It isn’t the way. She doesn’t advocate playdates as the tried and true way to reach a satisfying relationship with Jesus. But she does advocate for finding the way that works for you.
She takes play and examines its benefits and the reasons we do it. Through that exploration she links play to the act of being present. Boggess than points out how time speeds up as we age, not because we have less of it, but because we pay less attention to the time that we have. She uses the story of Naman’s healing to powerfully articulate how the ordinary and the wastes-of-our-time are actually where we become whole. Then she connects play and being present to rest and Sabbath. All of these things have the same beating heart behind them: that she would be a person who sees. Who sees the gift of life before her and sees the One who gives the gifts to her. She wants the same for us, too.
Boggess has a quiet wisdom that could easily be overlooked because she doesn’t take herself too seriously. But it would be a shame to overlook this generous little book. She loves God with an unwavering confidence, and because of that she shares insights that, if given the time they deserve, make you reconsider the Jesus you think you know. Just like the people in his hometown in Mark 6. She points out that scripture says Jesus could only heal “a few” of their sick there because they thought they knew him, they thought they knew better. Then she says this, “In order for him to heal more than “a few”, more than “a few” must come to him, and why would the sick come if they did not believe? Why would they come to little Jesus of Nazareth? They thought they knew him.”
The idea that God can take the commonplace and make it his dwelling place – that is what Boggess is after. She wants it for her own life and for anyone else who is ready to abandon their learned pursuits for the simple, childlike activities that we’ve grown out of. If you think you know better, you might just want to think again.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com