If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?"
Rabbi Joseph Heschel described the Sabbath as a temple built not of stone but of time. It is a sacred "place" that visits the Beloved of God. We may think of Lent in the same way, a holy season that comes to us and over us, to prepare us for Easter.
We were instructed as children about entering a church. We take our hats and coats off and settle into a sacred silence. Conversation may be necessary but only if it is fully aware of the Presence of God.
Lent also has its subtle effect on our awareness and behavior. The fast and abstinence are not rigorous or difficult; they are simple observances to remind us of what is important. Restricting our food to three meals a day, abstaining from meat on Fridays, and giving more attention to prayer, with other extra sacrifices: we feel the Presence of God.
That presence is benevolent and sacred. I would call it friendly if I were speaking to children, but not if the word means playful. God's nearness speaks to the deep, silent places in our hearts which, like the deepest ocean rifts, are not often visited.
But if playful means recreational as in creating again, refreshing, enlightening and invigorating, then Lent is a playful season. This is the kind of play we cannot live without.