Are we having fun yet?
I was at my 7th grade football practice in 1971.
I was waiting in line for a drill…feeling happy, or since it was 71…feeling groovy.
I loving being at practice(games, practice, it was all fun)
I was singing, out loud, a song by the Mamas and the Papas called “Monday, Monday”
(how do I remember the song? it was a memorable experience…it stuck with me)
A coach, yelled at me… “Williams, quit singing, this is football practice.”
O.K…noted…this is serious and therefore not fun.
But, then again, I thought… I’m kid…if it’s not fun, why am here?
Ok, probably to learn something?
Like church at the time… not fun at all, but I’m supposed to be learning something there…mostly I remember learning church wasn’t fun
But this is not church…its football…it is fun.
So, what am I supposed to be learning here at football practice?
Cause it IS fun, but this coach is telling me to stop singing because it’s football practice.
I stopped singing…but I was confused…because I was still having fun…but for some reason…I wasn’t supposed to be.
There are many valuable and important topics to discuss in a marriage retreat.
I’ve been to four different multi-day train the trainer courses and all have the same basic themes:
What would you guess those main themes are:
It is my conviction that to see change we need:
In order experience transformation…our lives, our marriages.
You can get information through training…in person, or reading.
You get motivation from a variety of sources:
-Suffering and failure
-Others…but in the end, it comes from inside or it without lasting effects.
Application is practice over time:
What we are trying to do tonight and tomorrow:
- Provide space to think about a couple of specific things related to our marriages
- Tonight…the vital importance of Fun: exercise will be time to go to dinner, just being together.
2.Theological foundation for marriage: This is essential for a lasting, compelling vision for pursuing growth in your marriage.
-exercise will be a time of prayer and commitment
- Overview of main topics for marriage: exercise will be for you to choose a topic from the options, begin working on it.
- Do it in community…with other couples that we are living life together with
What we are NOT trying to do:
Give a comprehensive training on all the important marriage issues
*I have list of books in the coffee shop…there are more, but these are representative of books that I have read that address the main themes.
*Reading books won’t be enough…but you ought to read at least a couple of books on marriage
*But for our time together, we don’t want to give more content than you can absorb
*We are looking for a base hit, not a home run.
Tonight…we are discussing FUN in marriage.
Then, we are going to leave and hopefully…go have some fun, if you need space to be just the two or you or if you want to go with other couples.
In his book the Screwtape letters, the senior demon(Screwtape) is mentoring a junior demon(Wormwood) on how to get his human into hell…away from God.
Screwtape is delighted to hear that the human is becoming friends with a non-believer but warns Wormwood about that relationship.
Wormwood thinks the fact that they laugh so easily and have fun are in the demon’s favor…somehow making them frivolous…susceptible to hell.
Screwtape says that “laughter is not always in our favor…we haven’t been able discern the real cause of true laughter…
Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged.
Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.”
“Fun is closely related to Joy–a sort of emotional froth arising the from the play instinct. It is of very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing; but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.”
I concur…the devil doesn’t like fun…hell is austerity, a funless soberity…joyless existence.
The devil often uses the pursuit of fun as a goal to his ends…but real fun, takes people’s hearts towards heaven not hell.
There is a pop Group called FUN..they out to be able to tell us something about fun.
2012 their song “We are young” reached number 1 on the Billboard Top 100 charts.
Young and fun…okay, what do you have for us? Well not much.
If you listen to the lyrics of “We are young” by “Fun”…there is absolutely nothing fun about it.
It all sounds very dismal, empty…now the melody is fun…but that is telling in itself.
All around, there is a sort of upbeat life melody…but the actual content of what is happening, the lyrics of life…is not fun at all.
Again, I don’t think Fun is a good goal…when fun is the goal, there is no fun to be had.
I think it is more a strategy to reach a goal.
What is the goal? Be faithful. Love God, love people.
The purpose of marriage is a subset of the purpose of life.
How is Fun a part of that strategy? It empowers faithfulness, and relationship, and joy…and for Lewis…courage…I hadn’t thought of that, but I think it’s true.
Fun, real fun…taps into heaven’s resources, not hell’s.
In Lewis’ chronicles of Narnia…we see this in Aslan, who of course is Christ, but in the form of a lion.
Aslan has been crucified and resurrected…let’s pick up the storyline there
“‘Oh children,’ said the Lion, “‘I feel my strength coming back to me. Oh children, catch me if you can!'” A mad chase began. Round and round the hilltop he led them, now hopelessly out of their reach, now letting them almost catch his tail, now diving between them, now tossing them in the air with his huge and beautifully velveted paws and catching them again, and now stopping unexpectedly so that all three of them rolled over together in a happy laughing heap of fur and arms and legs. It was such a romp as no one had ever had except in Narnia; and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm or playing with a kitten Lucy could never make up her mind. And the funny thing was that when all three finally lay together panting in the sun the girls no longer felt in the least tired or hungry or thirsty.”
What a fun image of the resurrected Savior…is your image of Jesus pre or post resurrection, somber, frowning, or is he fun?
If Jesus showed up at your party…would the party become more fun or less fun?
-I know it depends on what is going on, but it’s an important diagnostic question for how you think about him.
Where did Lewis get the idea that God is fun?
Have you seen animals at play?
Why is “fun” built into them…who built it into them?
What about Children?…they come hardwired for fun.
Are we healthier or less so when we lose our capacity for fun, for playfulness?
God made us in his image.
Who invented fun and play if not God?
One of the best things in my opinion about the great series “The Chosen” is that Jesus is portrayed (accurately I believe) as just being a lot of fun.
This makes sense because the best leaders (research and experience bears this out) are highly directional and fun to be around.
Jesus, was a great leader. Jesus was fun. There was no contradiction or conflict between his understanding of how lost the world was and his ability to have fun.
God, the Father is perfect joy. He is an eternally “happy” being. He, no doubt, had a lot of fun making the cosmos.
I’m sure he enjoys his life, I’m sure he is a fun being. Since fun exists, it originated from God.
Sure, he sees every sin and sorrow but he is never ending joy and happiness.
We can be serious about life and broken hearted over the terrible things that happen and yet be people who are able to find ways to have fun in life together.
There is a tension in this but no contradiction.
Here is my main point: When fun is low or gone from a marriage (or any relationship)…then resiliency, the ability to bounce and thrive is likewise low.
And my encouragement: We can recover fun. We must do so.
Or, we can maintain fun…but it must to be paid attention to over time.
If fun is missing, or largely missing…you can get it back.
If fun is present…you must safeguard it as the treasure that it is.
“Are we having fun yet?” is often used in sarcasm by someone who is clearly unhappy with their job or life.
I’ve heard it many times over the years…but It’s actually a really good question.
I don’t mean a good question in its normal usage as sarcastic rhetorical question with the assumed answer being “no!”
I mean taken at face value, “are we having fun yet?” is a really good question.
If the answer is “no” we probably should be asking “why not?”
It could be because life is really hard right and/or marriage is hard right now.
-I am a pretty fun guy…but there have years when I didn’t pay attention to the need for fun.
-Life was difficult.
It could be because trust is low between you…hard to have fun with someone you don’t trust.
It could be because hurt is high…hard to have fun when you are in pain.
It could be that you have just forgotten how…or forgotten “to” have fun.
-You can get it back.
-I learned to juggle when I was 18, I can still do it even though I don’t practice much
-Makes me wish I had learned more things when I was younger.
*You knew how to play, have fun…the reflexes are still there…it will come back to you.
I started loving the church when I was 19 years old and my love for the church has deepened and matured over time. I would have described my life in the church then as “fun.”
When I was 32 years old suffered a “fun set back.” That was the year I began to pastor a church.
Now I had to learn to love that as well.
Finding my work fun was not my primary goal but in order to thrive long-term it was necessary.
I hadn’t stopped loving the church, but now I had to figure out how to have fun leading one.
I think it is a bit like someone who loves a sport and then becomes a professional athlete.
What was fun is now a job
Some pros recover their early joy and learn to have fun at work, some don’t.
I eventually learned to love my job as pastor.
It’s not all fun, but the best description for me of my work is that it’s fun.
It may not sound like a very spiritual description of the work of pastor, but I think I could make a case for it being a good one none the less.
When I was a younger pastor, and into my mid-years I don’t think I had as much fun as a pastor as I could have and should have.
It was largely my own perspective, I tried too hard to be too serious. It was also my youth and insecurity. I could have been less defensive and grumpy and much more…fun.
I know the world is full of suffering and pain. I know this more now than I did when I was 30.
I know the world is lost and confused. I know that the calling of pastor and the life of a Christian in general is eternally “serious” work.
I also know that it is really, really good work and it ought to include some fun.
Perhaps your working definition of fun is different than mine is, let me give you mine not as a straight up dictionary entry but as a word picture.
To define “fun” watch a little kid.
Not when they are mad, sad, hungry, sick, or tired…but all the rest of the time. Watch them when they don’t know you are watching.
They do fun for a living. They are hard-wired, I believe, by God for fun.
Kids learn best when they are having fun. Everyone does, in fact.
Again, I’m not advocating for fun as an end itself. That would be childish rather than childlike.
I’m suggesting that we can have more mature fun.
We can learn to move through life in ways that multiplies enjoyment, even in the midst of difficult times.
We do not have to have a life void of suffering to have a life that includes fun.
Even in combat zones the US military has what is called “MWR”. It stands for “morale, welfare, recreation.”
Humans are not machines. Machines don’t need fun to thrive, humans do.
So MWR folks would provide chances for “fun” in deployed locations.
It could be by running a gym on base, or having a tent with movies or video games.
I took part in sponsored unit runs with participation t-shirts that became lasting mementos.
I once heard my commander talk to our unit about “having fun.” He did not mean we were to enjoy war. It was not fun being away from home. The work and lifestyle were stressful.
But, for me, it made sense when he cast vision for “fun” that day. It was a bit confusing, but it was not a contradiction.
It was an important tension, fun is necessary for morale and endurance.
It was a very difficult time for many of us but the vision of finding “fun” was very important.
Now, if you are in a difficult time of life or your life has been largely void of fun I do not intend to pour salt on your wounds.
But even when times are hard I have found that there is often the possibility of fun…if we learn to nurture it.
My older brother, Paul, has suffered a lot in his life.
I admire him very much, not the least for the fact that he is still alive after all he has been through.
I have been with him through many tough times. We have, in some of the darkest times, had moments together that I would call fun.
It was fun, stripped down to its barest components. Fun from shared hearts, shared time, shared life…even shared pain.
You may think I am redefining fun in such a way that I am twisting reality.
But it was, fun, to be with my brother in those times.
I remember driving through the mountains with Paul after his first wife left him, and he was separated from his 4 little girls…we sat largely in silence…looking at the awesome view
It was terrible…we drove for hours…but I enjoyed the time with my brother…it is why I took him to the mountains and we didn’t just sit in a dark closet.
We buried my 40-year-old niece this summer. Melissa was a joyful, sweet soul.
Our family gathered in Missouri and all the many grandkids ran through the house that was full of food, and people, and sorrow and fun.
How could that be? If you have been in similar settings, you understand how it can be.
You may think I am trying to force this idea of “fun” on you but I don’t think I am.
I don’t think I am trying to “prescribe” something as much as “describe” what is actually true in fact.
No one gets married so that they can spend years “solving lots of problems together.”
People get married to enjoy life together, to have fun together.
Over time, if we are not careful, marriage can devolve into mere problem solving.
Non-thriving marriages are no fun.
They are not thriving because they are no fun and they are no fun because they are not thriving.
Fun has been submerged under all the disagreements, and problems, and life events.
You might think this is inevitable, but it is not.
You might think fun is unrecoverable for you, but it is not.
Be careful, you might think it can’t happen to you…but it can…but it need not.
I’ve seen couples who have suffered a great deal continue to find ways to have fun together.
To counter this downward trend away from having fun together to merely solving problems…we must proactively protect and nurture fun in the relationship.
So, let’s define fun:
I used the word picture of a child at play, but let’s get a working definition.
Fun, is a relative term and it can change over time.
What is fun for a child, teen…isn’t necessarily fun for an older adult.
What is fun for one adult…isn’t fun for another.
Fun: definition from the dictionary:
Amusement, enjoyment, light hearted pleasure.
Light hearted pleasure…let’s go with that.
Oh, how we need our hearts to be lightened…and how good is it when we can do this for one another in marriage.
So, now to the questions “Why does fun evaporate from marriages?” and “What can be done about it?”
I’ll give you two-word hooks to hang your thoughts on.
-These are not meant to be cute, but memorable.
First: Why does fun evaporate from marriage?
-Over time, we have less time for fun
-Over time, we collect reflexes of hurts that hamper fun
-Over time, we take each other for granted and forget to have fun
-Over time, we can become cynical, grumpy, negative…no fun
-Troubles make us suspicious of good times…how can I dare have fun, I can’t trust joy.
-Troubles make us self-protective…how can I let my guard down.
-Troubles make us negative…life is just hard, what place does fun have?
The point here is to beware of two potential threats to fun:
One is slow, largely imperceptible…the long, steady march of time.
The other is more noticeable, and can come suddenly…the intrusion of trouble into our lives…but it too can come slowly over a long period of time.
And time and trouble can work together to undermine fun.
*The solution: phrases not single words
- Get fun done
- God is a fun Father
One is proactive choice, the other is a heart perspective that must be nurtured.
*My Flag page says I am from control country…I love to get things done.
*It also says I am low on Fun Country…which confuses my wife because for our entire marriage if fun is being had I am usually instigating it.
-I say it’s because “I like to get fun done.”
The principle here is that I do like to have fun, everyone does…but I also know that fun is necessary, important…and that part of my “job” if you will, as a father, parent, pastor, friend…is to pay attention as to whether fun is happening.
Be careful…if it looks and feels like you actually are just “getting fun done”(I’ve often been guilty of that)…probably no one will be having fun.
But the idea is…we must pay attention to the necessity of making sure fun is a part of our lives together
So first, thought
- Get fun done
Decide to nurture fun, determine to maintain it.
It will probably be tiring to have fun as time goes on…but it must be done.
Next, fun requires some childlike qualities.
One of our strategies as parents, and now as grandparents was to make our home “fun”.
The goal was not fun…again, that leads to a breakdown in everything fun…the goal was to raise healthy adults…part of the strategy to that end was to make, as much as we could…life together fun.
Our grandkids…love to come to our house…I think because they experience love in a fun environment.
They have fun at mimi and G’s house.
So, as we consider how to ensure fun remains a part of our marriages, or how to regain it…we need to see ourselves, as we are…we children in our Father’s house.
Fun requires trust…letting down your guard.
Fun requires hope…life is not all suffering and pain and problem solving
Fun requires humility…I don’t have to take myself so seriously.
Trust, hope, humility…are childlike qualities…as fun and play is a childlike approach to life.
-As we choose to trust each other (even if we have been disappointed, hurt)
-As we remember the hope of the gospel (suffering and pain do not have the final word)
-As we remember we are children, God is father (we can, become like children…let down our guard)
So, the first principle is proactive…”get fun done”
This second is more about our faith, our internal orientation…we are children, God is our father…”God is a fun Father”
You may have to chew on that a bit, but’s the idea behind giving word hooks…is to be able to recall and contemplate them as you move through life.
- Get fun done
- God is a fun father
One word about that second one…
He is not a doting old man whose goal is simply that we can all say of life “that was fun.”
This is tied to the reality of the gospel…we must recognize our sin and our need to be saved.
When we do, we come to God empty handed, and received his free gift.
We then, want to be his children, we want to please him and live life his way…when we do…we are positioned to have fun in his house.
*If you are living in consistent, unrepentant sin towards God…you will not experience him as a “fun father”…you will experience him as a holy Father who does not, cannot condone your sin.
Husbands, Peter said that if you are not actively loving your wife…then God is going to close his ears to your prayers.
I think that means…until we get things right, he isn’t interesting in talking with us about any other matter…it is just that important.
Wives…the same idea for you…if you are in sin, God won’t be perceived of as being fun…but he is.
*Repent…turn from your sin…and he will respond to you in correlation to how you are responding to him.
*If you are, husband or wife…are living in consistent, unrepentant sin…there is very little hope of having any real fun with God or others.
So you have those two hooks: one external, one internal.
-Get fun done
-God is a Fun Father
Let’s finish by seeing if we can come to some conclusions about why fun is so important and how to recover it and nurture it
*Again, I am not trying to give the final word on this…this is to spur your own imaginations.
*Each couple will approach this very differently.
*If all that happens is you leave with the idea, planted in your brain… “I need to make having fun a part of my ongoing marriage strategy”
-Then I would consider this a success
Why does fun make us more resilient in marriage?
- It puts us back on the same team
- It reminds us that joy is real, not just sorrow, or trouble (fun is echoes of heaven on earth)
- It reorients us to seeing the things that divide us as not being of ultimate importance.
- It helps us see the good in our spouse (remember what drew you to them? Part of it was the fun you had)
- We are not machines, we are humans…and humans need to play to thrive.
Prov. 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
How to recover fun in your marriage/or ensure fun remains
- Start small/cheap
*Cruises don’t fix struggling marriages…small daily kindness does, simple light-hearted fun does
- Don’t over plan
- Let yourself laugh:-Let go of unforgiveness, taking yourself too seriously, holding grudges
- Learn how to have fun in the midst of troubles…if not, then eventually how will you ever have fun?
- Include others:
-Sometimes this is how you begin…if things have become very difficult between you, and your dates become problem solving sessions…then go out with some fun friends.
- Learn to enjoy and delight in more and more, not less and less
-Be content with what you have, rejoice in the Lord, the Joy of the Lord is my strength.
In the morning Aaron is going to present an inspiring talk on a theology of marriage.
Our marriages are stories God that is writing as a part of his own larger story.
We need to have a high view of our marriages…God does.
That high view must not make us more serious…but more joyful.
If we take our marriages more seriously…we will be positioned to not take ourselves so seriously…and we can learn to become fun again…children again.