Thursday, March 3, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

(James having a white-knuckled blast on the kiddie train at Griffith Park)

I have a question.

When’s the last time you really had fun?

I have a feeling that your age might have something to do with your answer. For instance, if you’re in your twenties it might be “last weekend.” If you’re in college, it might even be “last night.”

I can’t even remember the last time I had fun.

I guess that’s obvious. I haven’t exactly been Little Miss Sunshine lately.

I’ve had the blahs.

I realized that I was suffering from a serious Fun Deficit the other day when I was trying to think of something to look forward to. (…something to which I could look forward, English Teachers.) And came up with Zilch.


I’ve spent a large part of my life in either wistful remembering or anticipatory expectation of Fun.

It’s letting me down now.

Everything just seems so serious and so…

terminal, or something.

The move and the flu didn’t help matters, but it’s more than that.

I’m back on the west coast now, and the Fun Deficit remains felt even here.

Ennui. A void.  A longing. For what, though?

Novelty? Excitement? Change?

Girls just wanna have fu-un. (So do boys.)

My grandson James thrives on it. Lives for it.

To my horror, I realize that we’re doing the same thing to him that I did to my kids… that my parents did to me: I am turning him into a Fun Addict.

Since I observed my own sense of Fun Deprivation the other day, I’ve become more sensitive to the topic. I’ve noticed myself using the word indiscriminately.

“Come on James, let’s hurry and take a nap so you can wake up and have fun!”

“We’ll go to the park this afternoon. Won’t that be fun???”

“Did you have fun at school today?”

Fun, fun, fun is being drilled into his head.

(“And she’ll have fun, fun, fun ‘til her Daddy takes the T-Bird away…”)

The problem with Life is that the T-Bird always gets taken away. Or breaks down. Or gets a flat tire. And many of us blame our Father when that happens.

As if Fun were one of our inalienable rights. Life, Liberty, and…

Every time you turn on the TV, some sort of Fun is being advertised and extolled. Collectively, our nation burns with the desire for more and more and more FUN!

It’s an addiction that we transmit to our children.

It’s not really fair to them. It wasn’t fair to us.

Because the gray day dawns when one realizes that Life Isn’t Always Fun. And then we feel gypped. Ripped off. Deceived. Let down. Cheated.

Fun really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all. Like New Year’s Eve.

Historically speaking, I think the obsession with having Fun is fairly recent. Until the 20th Century, people were more concerned with just staying alive.

The word does not even appear in the Bible in most translations. The exception is in the NLT. (New Living Translation) In every case but two, it is used negatively, appearing in the phrase “make fun of…”  For example, “In that day your enemies will make fun of you.” (Micah 2:4) The use of the word in a positive context (i.e. “to have fun”) is limited to these two verses: “Doing wrong is fun for a fool.” (Proverbs 10:22) and the part in Ecclesiastes where the teacher wryly advises that you might as well eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow you may die. Obviously B.C.

The origin of the word is revealing. It is a variant of the M.E. fon, “befool.” By the 1600’s it had acquired the additional meaning of “trick, hoax, practical joke.” The verb form meant “to cheat or hoax.”

(Which explains a lot.)

Fun is a counterfeit of Joy.

Fun’s not a bad thing. It’s great when it happens… especially when it’s unplanned. Planned fun rarely works out for me anyway. For instance, my husband bought us some expensive tickets to a really fun concert when I was home last. (I’m not talking about Rachmaninoff.) I ended up lying in bed eating Advil and croaking “Love Shack” to myself while friends rocked the night away with our tickets. Oh well. There’ll be another time. Or maybe not.

I’ve learned not to hold my breath.

And I continue to try to shift my focus.

I’m tired of this whiny little pity party I’ve been having. So I remind myself that it’s just a quick trip down here. No one promised that the trip would be a blast. It’s a journey through unknown rocky terrain. There will be moments of joy and laughter, and times of terrible despair and pain. Long, barren stretches of boring plodding. The key is to keep moving on up the mountain, no matter what. And to keep my eyes on the prize.

There is absolutely no temporary titillation on this planet that can compare with the everlasting joy that is yet to be revealed. That is available now.

I’m tired of pursuing counterfeit pleasures.

I want the real thing.


“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared
for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)


I’m interested in your thoughts. What does “Fun” mean to you? When’s the last time you had fun?

How do we enable our kids to have joyful childhoods, while preventing them from becoming Fun Addicts?

(A little more fun on the pony ride...)

(Surprised by joy on the playground at the end of the street, which was unexpectedly open when we got home from the park.)


Deseri Marshall said...

One of your best. Thank you for attempting to remind your readers, and our American culture, that God promised us life would mostly be HARD, not FUN, and we are even so to mindfully, trustfully experience JOY, not FUN.

Anonymous said...

I love this post, too.

I do think we're programming our kids to think Fun is a right, not an occasional privilege. But I don't know how to turn it around. I'll be interested to see if other readers have any good suggestions.

Thanks for always making me think about things in a new way.


emily said...

i want to first tell you how blessed i am by your writings. they are like a devotional, and i have followed your blog since you began.. you always have the words i don't.. thank you for sharing them..

now, for this post -i may have missed this completely, and if so just ignore me but i have a question...
I am in my 20's..does this mean having fun continues to goes away as I get older? if so, that really stinks. it seems as if that's the way society thinks it should be, but honestly - i feel it should be the other way around. while "fun" in itself, is fleeting.. joy isn't, and joy typically produces fun.. maybe i am off on this one.. but the world is hard, i know you've seen it first hand. i hope brighter & lighter days come around again for you soon & in the meantime, that you would find "the treasures in the darkness"..

Kim said...


This is a great question! I need to think about it.

I do think that your perception of "fun" changes as you age, but there is fun to be found in every stage. (Then again, I haven't experienced being 80-something yet!)

I agree with you that "fun" is fleeting, but joy can be found no matter what the circumstances because it is a supernatural thing. I experience great, great joy whenever I enter into true worship. Much more as I continue to age.

I will write more on this later, but right now James is waiting for me to take him to have FUN at the park!!

Thank you all for your comments on what has ended up being a slightly controversial topic. I always love hearing your thoughts!

emily said...

I just read back through your comments & now have more questions if that's ok..

As a Christian, I do know that we will experience hardship - but if we don't have a tangible piece of what heaven will be, how will we ever know to long for something else? I mean, honestly- why would anyone want to follow Christ if it was only hard all the time? One of the first Miracles Jesus performed was turning water into wine at a wedding..Looking at the interaction's with Jesus & His disciples, while He did lay it down point blank over and over and over, it also shows times that He had fellowship, and enjoyed the company of His friends.. Lazarus is an example of that..

I have no idea if I am making sense here, but basically what I am trying to say is aren't we giving ourselves to much credit if we think we can walk through life only experiencing the hardship & suffering? If we embrace only hardship, and are cautious of joy - doesn't that basically mean we're living in bondage and not freedom?

doesn't God given joy in the midst of suffering produce the desire to step out and have fun, or the ability to experience the emotion in "fun"? isn't this one of the perfect & good gifts that come from above?

while i am still in my 20's, i do know that this world is full of hardships and suffering..when I was younger, i used to get so overwhelmed by all of it that for awhile i thought what's the point of trying, or living in this, or whatever..i say this because I don't want it to look like i have my head in the sand to reality..i also totally get that our culture is completely self-absorbed, and self-focused & that even if we try, just by living in it - we take on certain aspects of it.. i get that we place too much focus on feelings & what we obtain, and not enough on God, and eternity..

but I guess the "God promised us life would mostly be HARD, not FUN, and we are even so to mindfully, trustfully experience JOY, not FUN." thing has thrown me off & maybe I am a picture of what's wrong in our society, but outside of the US - how does this work for those living in extreme poverty? who only live in the midst of extreme suffering, and hardship?

I am sorry, I know I am going in circles & I don't even think this is making sense or how to word it so it actually does make sense..
This is also directed more towards the first comment, than your post in general & i think after reading the comment, i may be misinterpreting your point in your original post, and if that's the case - i am sorry..
i hope you can see where i am coming from & i really appreciate your vulnerability, and that you take the time to share these things..

Laurel said...

Now that I'm an old matron with young 'uns, fun translates to "hours to myself." It is EPIC, the way a huge party in college was.

But I do find fun in the oddest places. My little girl woke up a couple of nights ago with growing pains in her legs. I rubbed them for her, got her a sippy cup of milk, and climbed in bed with her. She wriggled and giggled and cuddled and said the funniest things. And it was so FUN! When I rolled over to read my book until she fell asleep, she hiked herself up so she could lay her cheek on mine and look at words on my Kindle.

And my boy is taking his second round of standardized tests this week at school. We had a blast doing test prep. He loves it, especially the "find the pattern" questions. But I had him in hysterics going over "complete sentence vs. fragment" questions.

And then the things that are supposed to be fun when you have little ones, like Disney, sound dreadful. I can just hear:

"I'm hot!"
"My feet hurt!"
"How much longer?"
"But WHY can't I have this {whatever souvenir I will refuse to purchase]?"

I think for a lot of us the problem with fun is we think we SHOULD have it during a birthday party, on a vacation, decorating for Christmas, and forget to notice it when we are doing things that aren't supposed to be fun.

Kim said...



Becky said...

I haven't had fun in forever!

It helps to know that I'm not alone... and to be reminded that that's not the reason I'm here.

I love your honesty (and humor.)

Don't let anyone stifle you!

Mary M. said...


What's that???

(Just kidding.) But I think you're right... the older you get, the harder you have to work at it. Some parts of life are just NOT FUN.

I appreciate your perspective.

And hope you have some "unplanned fun" soon!

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite quotes is close to this thought about FUN and it incorporates the word PLAY! Maybe it's because I've always been mostly a kid at heart. Life is too short not to frolic and play! Even as my children are now young adults, they know there will be some kind of "fun" thing in their stockings at Christmas or their Easter baskets or just because. Scripture does tell us we are to enter the Kingdom as children. And children do find the fun in life, even without us nudging them. Which is why I really like this quote:

"We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."

That doesn't mean there aren't days as you have referenced where the fun and play are sucked out of life. Lord knows there have been plenty of days where I haven't wanted to lift my head off the pillow for all the tragedy that has invaded my life and the lives of those near and dear to my heart. Even now I have a friend whose heart is hurting and that hurts my heart deeply. The burden is unbearable.

But then I cling to the hope that His joy will fill my heart so that I once again can play and have fun! It may take more time than I would want. But then it comes in unexpected places. Recently the most unexpected place has been found in clowning. Yes you read that correctly. It is the MOST FUN I've had in many years!!

And I know as surely as I've written all this, there will again be more very HARD days that are NOT fun. But it's holding onto the memories of the FUN I've experienced and hoping for more days of FUN to come that sees me through these DARK times.

Love, hugs and prayers to you!

Unknown said...

Don't kick yourself too hard for making your home life so much about fun. There are way worse things a parent could do.

I married into a family that is allergic to fun. I don't think my in-laws ever did anything spontaneous, unusual or exciting with their children. For his 16th birthday they gave my husband a dictionary. I think that says it all.

My in-laws can't do anything even remotely enjoyable without over-thinking it to the point that all the joy is squashed.

I'm always going for the real, pure joy that only Jesus offers but I'll never knock ordinary fun.

And anyone who hasn't had a good time at Disneyland hasn't been with me.

Love, Michelle

allison guyer said...

love this post Kim.

- allison

Anonymous said...

"Fun" or a positive "feeling" was such a disturbing thing for me for so many years ... "wrong" if you will. I didn't understand why until more recently. It was tied to things that happened to me when I was young (that I had "hidden away").
Praise God that His mercy and healing began several years ago and has now begun to allow the "fun" to return. For me, it was "stolen" and therefore not "allowed" in my own family's world but now life, joy and fun are beginning to return. It is never too late (I pray!)
Thank you for your honest posts which I have followed for years. I couldn't begin to number the many that have resonated with me in different ways. You and your writings are a blessing to me.