When I graduated, the hobbies just got bigger and more expensive. With salaries and full time jobs, young men are given the resources to take their hobbies and obsessions to new levels. They often have a hard time being able to enjoy their hobbies in a restful way, without immersing themselves headfirst in a world of distraction. The young seminarian might obsess over his blog, the undergraduate student might be chest deep in video games, the father is dedicated to watching every game or being out on the links every weekend, and the grandfather is hoping to re-read all his favorite Grisham novels this spring at his lake house. Like Aristotle might have said, had he had the chance to update the slang in his Nichomachean Ethics, “It’s hard to fiddle in the middle.”
This is a needed word. The cultural trajectory of manhood is not healthy; many men today pursue their vocations like avocations (hobbies) and their avocations like vocations. Maybe you hold down a job, but the thing you really live for as a guy is your hobby–football, comic books, video games, books, carpentry, food, and so on. It’s no bad thing to have a hobby, but problems creep into our lives when a pastime displaces our vocation.
Let me give a personal example. I love basketball. That’s not inherently problematic; basketball is a gift of God’s common grace. But basketball, contra my sixth-grade dreams, does not pay my bills. Furthermore, there’s a fallen tendency in the universe that pulls at me–at all of us–to give lesser things a significance they do not deserve.
So part of growing in maturity as a man has meant that I play less basketball than I might otherwise. In fact, nowadays, with a young family, I don’t play much at all. Sometimes I can shoot around, and once in a while play an actual full-court game. But intramurals? Gone. Two-hour, multi-game sessions? Gone. Engrossing myself in my “free time” in the world of basketball? No longer.
Every guy needs to pray and think through how he approaches his own hobbies and pastimes. There is a place for such things in life; perhaps you can indeed play a sport, or be in a league, or read books. It all depends on how you structure your time and how disciplined you are in the rest of your life. But let’s just remember this: when one has a family to lead and love, a church to serve, work to joyfully perform, and more besides, there simply is not a great deal of time one will have for avocations.
A major temptation for many adult men who have families, job, and active ministries is to not plug in at home. In our sin, we’d rather golf (or many other things) than go home and play with our kids and engage with our wife. That’s not healthy. It’s not mature. It won’t bear good fruit in our homes. We’re not owed anything as men; we have no right to whine about a lack of time to ourselves. Being a man means owning responsibility and living sacrificially. Period. We live in the shadow of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:25-33). If you’re caught in a pattern of selfishness, if you think you’re owed hours of free time, repent and embrace a better and ultimately far more satisfying call.
Being a godly man doesn’t mean being a big kid. It means embracing the gospel, which causes us to die to our selves and to love others. Hobbies are no bad thing in their place, but God has graciously given us great things to do. Let’s pursue our vocations and callings with all our hearts, and show the world a better and more serious–more joyful!–way.