Chapter 10: Leisure

leisureThe media greeted the 70s with more than the usual number of articles on what the future held for the next ten years. As a young pastor, I read as many as I could thinking they might indicate how I should be preparing to minister. As I remember, number one on every list predicted the expansion of technology would provide so much leisure time people would be seeking all sorts of new things to do. Church trade journals warned pastors to get ready for the great influx of people who would have time to worship and engage in social ministry projects.

After taking time to laugh at the futility of forecasting what the future holds, we should all consider what happened. You have to think we could have used technology to create more leisure, but chose not to do that. Beyond that, we should acknowledge the kind of leisure we have chosen is quite different from what the Benedictine Rule, Joan Chittister, and the 1970 Church were speaking.

They all saw leisure as an essential part of spirituality. After all, if God commands that we take a Sabbath, then one seventh of our time should be given to some form of leisure. The Rule divided the day into 4 hours for prayer, 9 for work, 7-9 for sleep, 3 for eating and rest and 3 for reading and reflection. Chittister acknowledges we might not be able to lay out our modern day exactly in this fashion, however she believes we should find a rhythm that gives significant time to each of these parts. For sure, we should not allow any one of them to dominate the others.

She claims leisure should be given its due, because we cannot give to others what we don’t have ourselves. Play and rest are meant to refresh tired souls as much as tired bodies. They are meant to engage our hearts, deepen our insights, and stretch our souls.

Too often, we choose the kind of leisure that provides an escape from the anxiety of our everyday lives. For a few short moments, we watch television or work out our bodies. We then return to the same old grind that we believe we have no power to change.

Chittister thinks one function of leisure is to contemplate what is really important in life. It provides an opportunity to evaluate our work. She thinks this will lead us to question if we should really be working, working, working to have enough money so that we can do what we really want to do in our leisure time. Instead, it should help us see our work in fresh ways and appreciate it can be our contribution to God’s ongoing creation and to the service of other people. In other words, creative leisure is the source of change in our lives.

Creative leisure not only puts us in touch with the world and other people. It also enables us to know who we truly are. In this technological society, we try to do that by reading our DNA. Big deal! I find out I am not pure Pennsylvania Dutch. That certainly will not change much in the way I chose to live. However, if I spend some leisure time reading the scriptures and conversing with thoughtful fiends, the eyes of my heart might be opened.

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