Soul Play by Ken Bradford

I have come to believe that two souls in a committed relationship that play together will have a greater opportunity for love and understanding. If a resistant soul will become a willing playmate a deep trust between two people will flourish and produce pure intimacy. Husbands and wives can learn to practice the art of play, with no winners or losers, and in this they can develop an intimate language that only they share. Intimacy with its own soul language strengthens the husband and wife bond. Even if one partner doesn’t want to be intimate, the fun of one joyous person delighting in the wonder of the love they have for the other can awaken even the hardest of souls to the possibility of closeness and love.

When I worked for Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), I learned quickly that the games and fun songs that helped kids enjoy learning about the Gospel also helped to prepare their souls for radical change. There seemed to be a greater possibility of acceptance of God’s powerful truth when soul defenses were overcome through play.

In one of my groups there was a boy named Matthew. His soul was old and weary of the people around him. His parents were divorced and neither parent had a gift for nurturing children. To make matters worse, Matthew was never with one parent long enough to feel accepted and wanted. His heart was hardened because of a lack of love and acceptance in his life and it was evident every time I was with Matthew that malice was already well developed in his soul.

One afternoon we came into the church clubhouse where we were in the fourth day of a five day Vacation Bible School. We were all drenched from a spirited game of water balloon wars which Matthew’s team had participated in with great zealousness. Matthew was a gifted leader and at nine years old already had a charismatic personality, charm, athletic ability and a deep passion to express his every thought and desire. It was not always easy for him to sit and listen to a teacher teach.

As play time ended our group began to transition into Bible story time. As we dried off I noticed that Matthew was strangely quiet. Transition from an activity to a Bible story would usually illicit from Matthew one of his three minute monologues about how he already knew what the story was going to be about and who was going to do what and how. But even after I announced the name of the story Matthew did not try to take center stage.

The Bible story was from Mark’s account of Jesus walking on the water. Of course most of the kids had heard the story. But a well told classic is as good as a fresh story as long as the drama is maintained and the teacher has the wit to play to the audience. Even though Matthew was not challenging me I still extended a lot of our play time into the story. I made the seas twenty feet higher than usual. I Played off the fact that everyone in the boat was probably as wet as we were. I made the sky dark as night with no moon or stars. I shivered from the cold and wet and from the fear of perceiving Jesus to be a ghost on the water. Then suddenly we laughed when of course it wasn’t a ghost at all. How silly for grown fishermen to be so afraid. The fun continued into my invitation to the children to pray with me to receive Jesus as their savior.

When I gave the invitation to pray with me, Matthew and two other children indicated they wanted to pray. When the rest of the group was excused to do something else, I prayed with these three boys. We were all moved by the presence of the Lord and drawn into a beautiful time of worship. We grew in friendship. In that moment of Christ’s acceptance of us and in a mood of fun and play our lives were being transformed forever and we grew together in love as we prayed. Matthew’s old soul became young again, open to receiving love and acceptance from others.

I am glad that I was able to bring this same spirit of fun and games into life with Jacquie. She had often expressed a desire and openness to soul play, but I was the resistant one.

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After some experimenting Jacquie and I created a way to play off the events of each other’s day. We are both students so we do a lot of studying. It is simple to share what we have studied. It is also simple to see some of the comedy in the breakdowns that could have been avoided. Whether we have succeeded or failed doesn’t matter as much as opening our souls to the possibility of finding hilarity in the moments of the day.

This is kind of a Ken and Jacquie version of improv. We have learned by trial and error the gift of improv. It only has one rule. Whatever one person says the other person has to receive it one thousand percent with love and devotion. The first few events shared may provide only modest amounts of interest but by staying alert and in love, there always comes the potential for play.

If nothing else we go for the tried and true methods of breaking each other up. I can do it with a gesture or a silly observation about something odd in our neighborhood. Jacquie can give me one of her half serious sighs of love with a flirtatious smile and it’s all over for me. Every word from that moment on escalates the humor and fun of our private game.

This time together is liberating and healing for both of us as the weariness of our day quickly fades away. Because it is done in love seeking entertainment for the other we are drawn closer together. Our time together is as precious as that of Matthew and his friends in their first intimate experience with Jesus.

Can anyone develop a fun friendship in their marriage? Absolutely. Jacquie and I do improv and dozens of other things that are just about play. Yes, we started out slowly. And yes, at various times in our marriage, we had some expert help. But our souls have grown youthful through the joys of our playtime and we grow in our love for each other more each day.

If having increased fun with your spouse is something you want to experience but can’t think of how to get started, get a Relationship Navigator to help you. There are lots of people trained to help you to increase your level of joy in life. Having more fun with your husband or wife is one of the many ways to improve your health and happiness and quality of life. For the sake of your soul get started right away.

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