Wow, there’s a lot of text out there about how leisure and work relate to each other! I can sum it up for you: Taking time off work, having hobbies as well as a life outside of work greatly adds positivity and productivity to your life. In a shorter sentence, “Don’t make work your whole life.” Enough said? Maybe. Probably not. But not about productivity and positivity.
Let’s think for a moment about leisure in our work.
Dwight D. Eisenhower championed this phrase, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Regardless of whether you agree with his thinking or not, one thing is true, the statement calls for thought. This kind of thinking takes time because it bumps into values…why we count some things important and why others are not, etc. It’s a kind of thinking that suggests time has been taken to know one’s mind, to grapple with realities, wrestle with consequences and come to a reasoned (or gut) conclusion. So that when the urgent does come we’re not so much reactors as thoughtful responders.
Thoughtful responders and “leisure in working” intersect in the space it takes to do that kind of thinking.
One year David and I were concerned and convicted about the lack of margin in our work lives. Truthfully, it’s one of our greatest temptations. So, we sat down with a year’s calendar and marked off space for prayer and play…margin. Can you guess what we did? Yep. We worked through each and every one of them. The work felt too overwhelming to say “no” to, and the urgent felt too important to disregard or hand off.
Really, I think what played (and still plays) down deep is the conflict we feel over our own littleness and poverty. (Something our work either counters or confirms.) We may be greatly talented or gifted, but when you compare our abilities with the needs of the world or the bigness of God, we come out pretty small. As good as we are, we just aren’t big enough which also puts us in touch with our poverty (which does not feel good at all). It wakes up all kinds of feelings we don’t like or know what to do with. What follows is either a deep commitment to over responsibility or a deep discouragement that we are not enough. “Such an attitude springs from self-love and is a rebellion against our littleness and poverty. We do more harm to ourselves by yielding to [these discouragements] than when we fall through our weakness…The Lord needs nothing but our humility and confidence to work his miracles and marvels” (The Joy of God, pg. 116).
When we cultivate margin based on our desire to see God work as we can’t, space opens. And with that space comes time to create, explore, question, and wait…in other words, to become thoughtful, which is a very leisurely way to work.
ACTION: What does margin look like for you? Where do you find it difficult to create or maintain margin because you don’t want to let anyone down? What might “thoughtful responding” look like on you?