Staff Note – Sam Bloore: A Merry Heart

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…
(Prov 17:22)

I once looked up the word “fun” in a Strong’s Concordance to see if it was in the Bible. I had recently returned to faith after a prodigal decade and, in that few months, I had experienced such a sense of lightness, thankfulness, and technicolour that I was convinced “fun” must be a major theme in Scripture. I was a little disappointed to find the actual word wasn’t there, although I would later discover, of course, that it is indeed a major theme. I would discover even quicker, however, that you wouldn’t guess it by observing some Christians! As I quipped to a friend–“I tried to look up ‘fun’ and the closest I found was ‘furnace’…which pretty much sums it up…”

Fun might seem like a strange place to start a note for this lament-themed edition of Common Ground. But our theme is actually lament and hope. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote from a Nazi prison cell to a friend: “Who is there…in our times, who can devote himself with an easy mind to music, friendship, games, or happiness? Surely not the ‘ethical man,’ but only the Christian.” That is to say, other “ethical systems” just don’t cut it in the long run–only the Christian faith offers us a satisfactory explanation for (and equips us to live) the tensions and apparent paradoxes of life. Especially when a crisis brings them to the foreground. Lament and Hope. Furnace and Fun.

In his book, The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality, theologian Brian Edgar goes even further: “Most depictions of the future kingdom of God describe that age…in terms of joy, song, dance, and even play.” So, as ones who are invited to live into that kingdom now, Edgar argues, one of the things that should characterise our lives is “having fun and playing.” G. K. Chesterton seems to go further still: “The true object of all human life is play.” There is much to lament right now–sickness; death; isolation; economic hardship; recognising the idolatries that have crept into my own heart. But if I am reading Bonhoeffer, Edgar, Chesterton (and Scripture!) correctly, it is also fitting that even extended seasons of lament be punctuated by glimpses of fun. Because fun is one of the dance-partners of hope.

And so, my question as Alert Level 3 continues is: What are you doing for fun? As you’ll hear on Lockdown Radio: Nathan McLellan is whittling soup spoons; Lucy Collingwood and her flatmates are camping in the garden; Natalie Duchesne and her flat are TikTok-ing; and John Dennison has mown a railway track around the house for his boys to run circuits. So, amidst the seriousness of COVID-19 life, find something you can do for no other reason than the sheer fun of it–you might be making more of a prophetic statement in these “unprecedented times” than you think.

(Image copyrighted to Venn Foundation)