By Amber Kinloch & Rose Leigh
June is here. At this point, we’re probably all hankering for a break. The bustle of spring is over, school’s out, and we’re ready to chill by the poolside or out on a hammock in the backyard. Initially, it feels good. I remember what a relief it was as a kid to be done with school. But too much leisure time takes a toll, doesn’t it? At some point, we begin to feel bored, dull, lethargic. We get restless and anxious, perhaps, quarrelsome, or just indifferent, and the impact is felt in our daily life.
Before we go barreling into summer, how about we take an hour, a day, or even a week to reflect on how we can sanctify and refresh ourselves through the pursuit of leisure during this season?
Make it Intentional
We often fall into the trap of aimlessly seeking out pleasure. Instead of engaging in truly restful activities, we go after what gratifies us in the moment or is easiest to attain. How many of us have spent far too many hours day after day watching TV, playing games on our phones, or mindlessly surfing the Internet?
True leisure, on the other hand, takes effort. It has a “human element,” something that engages our mind and/or our senses.
Think of gardening and the experience of working with your hands, the warmth of the sun and dirt, the smell of soil and flowers, and the thought that goes into planning out a flowerbed and nourishing plants with the right amount of water and nutrients. How about playing card or board games with family and friends? Again, there’s thought, and also fellowship.
Take some time to think about what you enjoy doing. Look up different hobbies: woodcraft, tinkering with a car, biking, reading, calligraphy, cooking…. Rediscover an old hobby or pursue a new one that attracts your interest. There are numberless activities we can do to develop our talents, refresh our spirits, and connect with others.
Have you ever done too much of something? I’m a fast reader. When I’m hooked on a book, I speed through it. Sometimes, it’s refreshing, like when I’m sick and need something to take my mind off my aching throat. But at some point, it gets to be too much. I read mindlessly. I’m not really enjoying the experience. I’m just gobbling down books, not listening to the voice in my head that’s begging for a break.
Too much leisure is bad for us. Too much of anything is bad for us. At some point, we need to put a cap on things.
The virtue of temperance guides us in moderating our leisure time, balancing it with other important aspects of our life: prayer, family, friends, work, chores, etc. Because leisure is enjoyable, it’s easy to let it take up a disproportionate amount of time or slide higher on our list of priorities than it should be. For example, if a fun activity gets interrupted by a parent asking us to help with an urgent chore, we often get angry, even though the latter task is more important. Or when we get home late from a party, we might use that as an excuse to skip evening prayer time. Are there areas of your life that are being neglected in this way in favor of leisure activities?
Ponder how much time it’s wise to devote to an activity in light of your other obligations. A hobby like origami, running, or painting might fit into your daily schedule just fine. Other activities, like rock climbing or wine making, might need to be limited to a couple of weekends a month. It takes discernment and self-restraint, but in the end you will enjoy your leisure time far more than if you go overboard with indulging yourself.
Keep God at the Center
St. Paul bids us, “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Everything. That includes our leisure.
How can we praise God in something as simple as leisure? It’s easy to think of our free time exclusively as “me” time. And yet it’s not difficult to turn that mindset around. We just have to ask: “Am I seeking God in what I’m doing?”
We can seek God in our leisure by doing something worthwhile, as mentioned above, and by moderating our desires. We can do it by being present, putting our heart into the activity at hand, sincerely enjoying it, and carrying it out to the best of our ability. We might ask, “Is this thing building me up as a person? Is it helping me grow closer to God?”
We might also ask, “Am I helping my neighbor in my leisure time?” Perhaps it’s stopping to talk with someone while we’re out walking. Maybe we can invite a new person who seems lonely to a group activity. Perhaps we possess some particular talent through which we could bless others.
The time God gives us is precious, and we don’t want to waste it. Is your free time being misspent, or is it being used in fruitful leisure that will ultimately glorify Him?
June 29, 2022 Update: I came across this lovely article in which Dr. John Cuddeback discusses leisure and our problem of having “no time” in an age full of modern conveniences. It’s a short read, full of food for thought. I highly recommend this article and Dr. John Cuddeback’s blog in general. ~Amber
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.
Rose has been drawing and writing since she could hold a pencil, creating worlds of giants, fairies, and adventurers from her imagination. She works as a graphic designer and loves discussing the good and creative aspects of literature, art, and film.