Play-Doh Wisdom

January 1, 1970

On Mondays at the Darling house, we try to "go dark." This just means that I have a day off and we try to spend time with the kids. Doesn’t always work because there are pressing needs at the church or a conference or meeting I have to attend. Pastoring is 24/7, I believe, so my cell phone is always on. But generally, we try to go dark on Mondays. Which is hard for me to do, because I really love church work. Sometimes too much.
This Monday Grace and I opened up the play-doh. Our family has an interesting history with play-doh, really. Growing up we played, but I don’t know that we got to play it enough. I never understood that. Until I had a child and realize how messy play-doh can be. When Grace, at age of 3, put play-doh in her ear and had to have it surgically removed (true story), I suddenly realized the wisdom of my parents and their play-doh restrictions.
But Monday was Play-doh day. Now at four years old, Grace kept reminding me that she was now a big girl and she wasn’t foolish enough to put the stuff in her ear. I’m realizing how important it is for me to affirm her "grown-up-ness." I’m realizing the need to balance correction with positive affirmation — words that communicate the message, "Hey, you’re really growing up. Daddy’s proud of you. You’re really something."
Now, when Grace and I break out the play-doh, we really have a good time. First I get rid of all the really crusty old play-doh that is hard to manage and I put it in the "throw-away" pile. I realize that you can heat it up in the microwave and rejuvenate it, but honestly, at $1 for a sleeve of 8 little cans, I’m not sweating it.
It usually works best if I use the cookie cutters with my few cans of play-doh and if Grace has her pile. She’s not big on me trying to get her to make cool shapes. She’s more of an impressionist when it comes to play-doh scultping, liking to mix colors and pile it all into one big pile. She told me she was "making a cake." Angela really doesn’t like this, because the colors mix and then at the end, you have one big tie-dyed glob that looks like the carpet people enjoyed in the 70’s. But if Grace is having fun, enjoying her creativity, and we’re getting good Daddy-daughter time, I’m okay with globs of tie-dyed Play-doh. And again, the stuff is only $1 for a sleeve of 8 at the dollar store. I’m not sweating it.
But as we were enjoying our play-doh time, I realized a few important spiritual lessons. Here they are in order:

Dry, crusty play-doh is no fun. You can’t shape it into anything. Its really only good to sit and eventually be thrown away. Doesn’t the Bible say that God is the Potter and we’re the clay? When we get crusty and inflexible, He can’t do anything with us. He can’t shape us into something beautiful for His glory. However, if we stay fresh–like the fresh, sweet-smelling play-doh that comes out of the can–God can do remarkable things with our lives. I think I often tend toward the crusty.
Grace had a huge pile of play-doh. Then she wanted all the shapes I was making. So I gave them to her. She kept piling them all up until she had all the available play-doh in a huge pile. Then I asked for some so I could make another cool shape. She said, "Okay, Daddy," like she was being all generous and loving. She proceeded to scrape off a tiny, miniscule piece and said, "Here you go." It reminded me of our own attitude of perceived generosity toward God. God gives us all this stuff, right? Then we take it and we hoard it. God askes us to give–at church, in a tithe, maybe even to a needy family or missionary. So we squeeze off just a little bit of what we have and act as if we’re so generous. I wonder how that makes God feel?
Its really cool to open a can and scrape out that fresh piece with a solid color, like blue or red or yellow. But do you know what is really cool? Taking like 6 colors and mixing them together and putting them thru the play-doh factory. What comes out is a beautiful rainbow of colors. It reminds me of the church. God says that He has made each one of us special, hasn’t he? We’re unique and we’re fearfully and wonderfully made. But what’s even more beautiful is when you have a body of believers, each with different and unique gifts, personality traits, backgrounds, life journeys, and ideas. Mix them all together and you have something really beautiful. The Body of Christ.