Do you use leisure well? I ran across this phrase in the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. It’s an intriguing concept – to do well with our leisure time. I think the push for Sabbath, both in scripture and from respected leaders in ministry, is a form of putting emphasis on leisure time. In many ways, leisure time has been replaced. All of our activities are centered around an end result, even for children and teenagers. Instead of playing baseball out in a neighboring field on Saturday afternoon with friends, students who enjoy baseball are signed up and pay to play on select teams that require rigorous practice and travel schedules, leaving little time to play for leisure. Children aren’t exempt either – in our culture, parents try hard to zero in on where the child excels and then pour all energy and resources into one thing – often requiring 3-4 evenings per week on the particular activity. As adults, we’re not even sure if we can pinpoint leisure time in our schedule. Many of us do not use leisure well.
Leisure time can be defined as “Living in relative freedom from the external compulsive forces of one’s culture and physical environment so as to be able to act from internally compelling love in ways which are personally pleasing, intuitively worthwhile, and provide a basis for faith.” (Geoffrey Godbey)
This definition of leisure may seem a little philosophical, but it helps us understand a few key points about leisure time:
1) Freedom – First of all, it allows freedom, both “from” and “to”. Godbey explains that “freedom from” is important as you pull away from life obligations and constraints, such as work, projects, and issues. “Freedom to” refers to your choice of how you will fill your time that are not obligated to chores, work, assignments and completing daily tasks.
2) Self Discovery – Through leisure, we discover what we love and what is internally pleasing. We may find that we love a game or an activity. We may find that we love reading or some other art. As we are experiencing leisure activities that we enjoy, they become a priority in our lives without effort.
3) Growth – As we participate in leisure activities, we find that we are growing. Children especially experience benefit from time apart from regular, physically constraining activities. They grow in skill and in knowledge through experiencing leisure time.
To understand the full power and potential of leisure, it is important to separate it from another closely related word, recreation. Simply stated, recreation can be understood as the activity or experience, while leisure is seen as the outcome of the experience. [Source of Godbey’s Research: NCHPA]
How many of our memorable family stories are centered around times of leisure – when we were on a trip or free to experience life together without obligation. Leisure is important for both the void of obligation and the chosen experience with our time.
So how can we use leisure well?
1) Free Yourself From Obligation
To use leisure well, you must create a stopping point and free yourself from obligations so that you are free to choose something that can become an effortless priority. This requires defining a day off / Sabbath time and requires some discipline to stick with it.
2) Discover Leisure Activities
If we haven’t been using leisure time well, it may take a bit to adjust to thinking about them. Leisure activities can be found at home, around the community, at church, and through hobbies and interests.
3) Go Together
Families can do a lot to help their kids grow in “using leisure time well”. Go together to experience something outside the home, away from devices and together as a group.
As I look back on the last month, I’m grateful for the leisure time activities and memories we have banked. The outcome of the experiences have already proved to be very valuable! Here are a few of those things:
1) A trip to Great Wolf Lodge.
2) Strawberry picking at a local farm.
3) Making strawberry jam and freezing it.
4) Grilling out on three or four occasions.
5) Washing both cars – which escalated to a full-blown water fight with neighbor kids.
6) Taking walks around the block nearly every evening (mostly due to getting a gift of a FitBit, which has caused us to increase walks to get the step goal each day! It’s been a blast! Here’s the Fitbit I got.
7) Catching lightning bugs and keeping them in a jar for a while.
8) Sitting around a bonfire all evening.
9) Watching a concert.
10) Playing music.
As with all walks of life, the life of ministry can become overwhelmingly busy, often with lines between work and play blurred. But, my prayer for today, this week and this season of life is to “Do Leisure Well” even if I have to get it right by trial and error.
How well do you do leisure time?