Leisure? Me? I’m too busy!
As we move into the month of May, summer appears to be just around the corner. Thoughts of the “lazy days of summer” come to mind – briefly. Except for the honest fact that I can’t remember a time when I’ve had a lazy summer day.
Truth be told, I have been swept into the frenetic pace of life just as much as the other person. Being a mother of five children has one thing to do with my level of busyness. Being a “Type A” personality also plays a role. And most significantly, being a 21st century American has a lot to do with why I find very few moments to slow down and experience leisure.
This idea of “leisure” actually caught my attention last year. The thought of meaningful rest, making time for an intentional pause, and keeping the Sabbath holy kept percolating in my mind. And so, I decided to do something about it. I did a little research into this notion of “leisure” and the Sabbath rest. What I found was remarkable – and it has caused me to make some pretty significant changes in the way I now “do” life.
Does Leisure = Laziness?
No. Leisure does not mean laziness. Rather, according to Joseph Pieper, in his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture, leisure is a form of silence. It is a pause in our relentless busyness – a pause that allows for quiet and the ability to hear the still, small whisper of God (1Kings 19:12).
In our 21st century technologically driven society, we tend to prize the utility of a person. In traditional societies, however, relationship was the focus – and leisure allowed for the strengthening of relationships with others and with God.
Today, leisure can still allow for the strengthening of relationships. It also allows us the opportunity to step back from our work, to observe what we have done, and to reflect upon the good – as God did during creation. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his book The Sabbath says that “labor without dignity is the cause of misery; rest without spirit is the source of depravity.”
Truly, leisure is necessary to build relationships and to refresh the soul.
What Does Leisure Look Like Today?
On a practical level, what does “Striving for Leisure” look like? Leisure can take many forms. Here are four ideas:
Set Aside Sunday for God and Family
- First and foremost, it means keeping the Sabbath holy. To do so, we must strive for true leisure, true relationship, and true divine celebration on Sundays. Attending church is an important place to start. I am also learning that we should strive to set aside work and errands so that we can enter into relationship with our family. For me, this has been a challenge. It is easy to view Sunday as a “catch-up” day – a day to run errands, get caught up on laundry, clean the house, or complete other chores. Those activities, however, are not what God intended when He commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy. They also do not help us to practice leisure.
Take a Break from Social Media
- Second, we should try fasting from social media between 5pm and 7pm every day. During those hours, focus on your family. Share a meal together. Share a conversation together. Be present to those in your own household. Invite them into relationship with you. Focus on communal living rather than collective living. This means intentionally striving to build relationships with the members of our family.
Read a Good Book!
- Third, read quality literature. Spiritual reading and classics are excellent ways to enter into true leisure. Consider books such as Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, or Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Reading quality literature enriches our lives and refreshes the soul.
- Fourth, get outside. Enjoy a walk with your friend, your child, or your spouse – and leave the social media behind! Hike, walk, run, sit and observe. Breathe in the fresh air, feel the sunshine, enjoy God’s creation. Spending just 30 minutes outside is good for the body. And, it can lift the spirit for the remainder of the day.
In my own research and practice, I am beginning to learn that for true spiritual conversion to happen, and for healthy relationships to grow within the family, we need to make room for leisure. Leisure is not laziness nor is it wasted time in front of a screen. True leisure is more important than that. True leisure creates an intentional and regular pause to reflect upon God’s goodness and our family relationships. Indeed, true leisure might be just what we need to change our lives – for the better!