The Well-played Life
Why Pleasing God Doesn’t Have to Be Such Hard Work
As we mature in discipleship, we don’t grow old, we grow new in Christ.
With the artful and unstoppable spin of a heavenly super salesman, Leonard Sweet invites us to live our faith through “personating” Jesus. He invites us to play our way to freedom in Christ with convincing and persuasive gospel logic.
Sweet breaks down our lives into Ages/cycles, each connected to different questions and corresponding pursuits, making every age valuable and meaningful (cycles are cumulative, encompassing the good and valuable learned and practiced in preceding cycles). In the first “Age,” 0-30, one concerns oneself with identity, and through play and learning/living the story, we find out place in it: “Who am I?” gets answered. “The stories of Jesus teach First Agers to love the light, to incarnate the light, and to walk in the light” Sweet goes on to point out that in a work paradigm the task of First Agers is “to dust themselves off” (lose the grime); in a play paradigm we emulate God’s mud-pie making in the “Garden” and get down and dirty. Second Agers, 30-60, become “full members” of our community. Whereas many take that to mean, “getting serious” Leonard insists “a job or business should be a form of play that pursues God’s pleasure of learning and growing”—transforming perception and turning everyday pursuits in to “Godplay.” We join the symphony; learn to dance with a partner. Finally, Third Agers, 60-90+, aren’t out of the running, but rather have become “Master Players” and “Game Changers.” or as Sweet puts it, “The Third Age is not when life winds down, but when life winds up.” Sweet points out, that our year 60 corresponds with 30 in Jesus’ time, based on life expectancy.
Leonard Sweet calls us out of the “Protestant work ethic” into a Paradise play ethic, telling us the early church was not distinguished by how well they worked, but by “how well they love[ed].” Sweet is not promoting selfish indulgence, rather a return to finding our security in relationship and not works. In fact, he’s finally shed some light on paradoxical scriptures on labor and rest. Ultimately, Sweet contends, the sacred is found in play, not work, and growing “new” as you add years, might just be the best thing that ever happened to you. Rather than the entropic downward spiral, Sweet paints the possibility of enjoying God endlessly and changing the world around us as “we savor” his “pleasure.”
The Well Played Life reframes and reorients us to a life of joyful freedom, but a question hovers for me: Is the “playing” field even? Is it harder or easier to learn to play life well if you’re imprisoned for your faith, or tortured, or even threatened with death? Does the book apply to all equally: Third World victims of religious intolerance, disease, and poverty as well as those who live lives of freedom and seemingly endless available personal and consumer choices? Can a well known or unknown Nepali, Pakistani, Indonesian, North Korean, Central American, or missionary achieve Third Age influence—initiate/orchestrate global projects from prison as easily as someone from say, North America, Japan, South Korea, or West Germany? Mmm. Well if Jesus, Paul, Watchman Nee, Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Richard Wurmbrand each is an example, it would seem that the answer is, “yes.” Sweet rattles our cages, and gives us the keys to freedom, true success, and a well played life.