Leisure. Now there’s a word that connects with pictures! Walking slowly down a quiet, forested lane while taking in earthy sun-dappled green. Slowly sipping darkly roasted coffee, bitterly rich yet sweet. Enjoying a “down the rabbit hole” conversation with a friend that winds around until you finish in a whole other place than where you began. The feeling is of wholeness. Action not fractured or divided by the word, “multi.” The gift is an unfettered relating…to God, to ourselves, and to our world. Whatever the action, I give my whole self to it.

In the dictionary, I see it comes from the Latin word meaning “be allowed.” In Webster, Oxford, and others, the word “freedom” seems to find its place next to “leisure.” Free because work is done and now there is unaccounted for time. It’s the big umbrella word where activities such as recreation, vacation, hobby, and all kinds of play and pleasure bump into each other.

What are your images now? A wish for more time to do things you really enjoy? Longing to read but falling into bed at night too tired to do anything but play a short video game? Brain freeze from voluminous worklists? Fatigue? Perhaps a bit of resentment over missing margin in your life? 

Ministry is tough, that’s for sure. Needs press close. Difficulties run rampant. Output is more common than input. In fact, when we think about the volume of work, the needs of people, responsibilities to our families, and all the little stuff springing up in between, leisure begins to take on a very different cast. Impossible. Unproductive. Unprofessional. Dilemma fostering. Guilt inducing. Those words feel familiar. In short, if “leisure” comes from the Latin word, “to be allowed,” we don’t feel allowed. If “leisure” is the time that is “free” when the work is finished for the day, then we are not usually free. It would just feel wrong…irresponsible.

Is it possible that what we give our whole self to is work? Let me say right here, work isn’t bad, nor is it the culprit. God ordained work as a good gift for us to enjoy. No, the problem isn’t work. But it might be a misunderstanding of who is responsible for the work. It might be too much of an ownership for the end result. It might be some anxiety about what others could think if we don’t look like we’re working as hard as they are.

This question of “who is responsible?” really messes with us sometimes. We want to be faithful workers and good stewards of the gifts given to us. But I wonder if those good things aren’t pushed too far. I wonder If we use them in a way they were never intended to be used. Consequently, do we miss out on freedom that was meant as a good gift too? 

Just a thought.

ACTION: What goes on in you as you read this? What images come up for you when you think of the word, “leisure”? 


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