I am currently coaching a man named Tim, a missionary in Serbia, who learned a lot about himself during a recent assessment of his free time.
Tim is doing some incredible things. He spends his days at an orphanage, teaching English to children. Twice a week, he leads worship at a bilingual church service.
“I get to be a part of all of these great things,” Tim said to me recently. “Things I really love. But I still feel like I am wasting my time. I feel empty. Lost.”
Tim’s situation is, unfortunately, not rare. We fill our time with the things we believe will bring us deep joy. We take jobs in pursuit of purpose. We schedule events in hopes of being entertained. Even when it is great, sometimes, strangely, it is not enough.
Tim and I talked about what he does during his free time.
“Oh, I’m so exhausted after ministry. I watch Netflix. I sleep in, I nap, whatever.”
There is perhaps no greater indication of who we are than what we chose to do with our free time. John Wooden said, “the true test of a man’s character is measured by what he does when no one is watching.”
Our free time is the overflow of our hearts. It doesn’t matter how tired or busy or frustrated we are. Our free time choices are the greatest indicator of who we are and what we value in ourselves.
Why? Perhaps it is because of the pureness of the choice. Untouched by money or performance and people-pleasing, and unshackled by ‘necessary’, our free time is the opportunity for our souls to express themselves.
What it means is that life is about ownership. It is about making the choices most aligned with our identity.
Most of the time, our culture looks at free time as “off”’. A time to check out, to “decompress”. So, what exactly are we pursuing when we take away those constraints? Nothingness? Boredom? Video Games?
A few weeks later, Tim and I talked about what he was doing during his free time. We talked about the choices he was making when there were no choices being made for him. We talked about what it looks like to own your free time, rather than just letting it happen to you.
Tim is writing more, playing music on the rooftop of his lodging when no one is watching. He still rests during his free time, but with more awareness and purpose, careful not to let rest morph into complacency. He’s using his free time as a time to live rather than to detach from living.
What do you do during your free time?