Guidelines for Individual Playdates

These Playdates with Scriptures are built out of a conviction that we learn naturally and grow strongest through activities of play. Intimacy and familiarity are better nurtured in play than in study, in laughter and delight than in the furrowing of brows.

Yet, there is often reluctance about playing with Sacred Scripture—as though we somehow dishonor God or God’s Word through being less than serious about what is written in Scripture.

Here’s the danger, though — Too often we hunger for a word of wisdom or guidance from Scripture, but not feeling wise enough ourselves, or educated enough, or smart enough … we rely on the readings of other people to lead us in our devotional and spiritual lives. It’s nice to listen to other people. It’s wonderful to follow good leadership and be challenged to new thoughts by others. But . . .

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel free in your own reading of Scripture? To trust your own heart and your own mind and your own inquisitiveness when you read? Perhaps interacting with Scripture can lead you to listen to your own heart. Perhaps playing with these sacred stories and poems and prophecies can open you up to hear your own mind thinking about sacred things, about your own life, about this world, about those you love and those you do not yet know.

The goal, then, of these Playdates can be stated in one word: Freedom.

Learning to play can bring freedom. We can grow in wisdom and in confidence and in humility and in delight. Our hunger can grow as we give ourselves permission to explore, to ask questions, to pursue new possibilities.

The Scriptures can surprise us . . . again and again and again. But only if we allow our minds (and hearts) to play. If we study it so we can “nail down” the “truth” of it … then the text will stop surprising us once we know everything we’re supposed to know.

These Playdates, however, can keep the surprise in the game! Something new can always greet us when we turn to these texts.

So make a daily … or weekly … practice of these Playdates. Here are some suggestions about how to make Playdates a part of your growing life.

  1. It’s helpful to establish a place for yourself. Where will you play? In an easy chair? At a desk? On the couch? On the porch? It’s always wonderful to have a play-space for yourself. You don’t need much space — just a place to write and pray and read and think and imagine and sometimes draw and sometimes talk out loud to yourself. Create a space for yourself. Perhaps you will want to have some special objects that “mark” your space? Some music? It’s yours. Make it a space for you.
  2. When will you play? Every day? Three days a week? In the mornings? Or before you go to bed? Or on lunch break? Set a time, make a date with yourself, with the text, with your heart and imagination.
  3. Have a few supplies at hand. A notebook or journal. It’d be helpful to have two or three different translations of the Bible available, but that’s not necessary. Any translation will do. You’ll want a reliable pen, maybe some colored pens or pencils. If you like to draw, have a good quality sketch pad at hand. If you’re a go-wild kind of soul, have a bin or basket of stuff like tape or scissors or glue or, oh, just have stuff! I like coffee. Maybe tea is your drink of choice. Get comfortable.

Now here are a few guidelines to help you along in your play.

  1. Be confident that you won’t “break” Scripture. It’s survived a very long time, in all kinds of climes and conditions. You won’t break it. It’s strong. Fear not!
  2. “Make big mistakes!” Well, actually, there are no mistakes here. Each person will do the playdates differently from the next person. However you play, that’s exactly right! The point is the play. There is no one to say “good girl!” or “good boy!” No grades will be given and no dunce caps are at hand. Be stupid. Ask dumb questions. Flub your way through. Laugh with yourself. Because your mind is at work. You will surprise yourself. I promise. We discover things when we let go of our external expectations, when we stop trying to be “smart,” when we just dive in and try new things. (It’s safe! Try new things here!)
  3. Don’t worry about “what it means.” We are used to a nice summary statement at the end of a devotion, a Bible study, a sermon. Those summary statements are fine and dandy. Not a problem. But this is play. Who summarizes play? It’s not the take-away that matters here. It’s the activity itself. It’s the doing of the thing. Just like any game we play. Sure, on tv there’s the recap of the game. But most real aficionados know that it’s the game itself that matters, not the analysis. In real time, we’re playing, we’re interacting with these stories, these words. What do we take away from it? Just this: we’ve spent “quality time” with this text. We’re getting to know this Word, inside out!

Do you have other suggestions for folks who are playing with Scripture? Email me and I’ll add them to this list!

Virginia Wiles

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