In the intensity of the demands of daily life and Christian service, it’s good to have the opportunity to step back now and then to do something different, something recreational. Established by God Himself in the principle of the Sabbath, human beings quickly become less than God intended unless they take time regularly to withdraw from the ordinary work of their lives in order to renew.
This was my experience for the past week after serving in an intensive situation for more than a couple of weeks just prior to the break. It was so good to be home to be renewed in body and soul in a variety of ways — time together in our marriage, physical rest, a change of scenery, physical exercise, good food, reading, as well as Bible reading and prayer. Sometimes it’s great just to be able to be quiet — away from all the things that usually occupy one’s attention.
Yet something in this experience also comes through loud and clear. It is that recreation must simply be understood as a diversion for a brief time for the sake of renewal, not as an end in itself. As I contemplate the new pace that retirement might offer in the not too distant future, I can’t imagine the boredom that would soon come from continuous recreation. Somehow, no matter how old we become, I don’t think we were made for recreation as an end in itself just like we were not made for work as an end in itself. What makes life meaningful is the opportunity it affords to be employed in things that are ultimately important. That is why, from a Christian perspective, it seems to me that one can never actually retire.
Though I have enjoyed this time away from my work in order to be refreshed, I have come to realize again that such activity is not an end in itself. Like Jesus, perhaps, I have this sense that “I must work the work of Him who sent me while it is day, because the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). I’ve come to realize again that life does not consist of simply enjoying the blessings of this world — of which there are many.
But it is not just a matter of working, which in itself offers a certain kind of blessing. But it is working for a cause that is bigger than oneself. And from a Christian perspective what could be bigger or more important than working toward the building of Christ’s kingdom? And in that regard, there is always more to do — until He Himself brings it to completion. That’s why, at least for me, there is no satisfaction in simply trying to develop some physical skill for its own sake, accomplish some worldly ambition, complete “a bucket list,” or accumulate a certain amount of money. My greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that my life is making a difference for someone else for Christ’s sake and the establishment of His kingdom.
There are a whole lot of recreational experiences that I thoroughly enjoy, and I wish I had the opportunity for more. (And as I have opportunity, I look forward to experiencing as many as possible.) But in the end I know that what will bring the most satisfaction is relating to people in love and truth in the way that Jesus and so many of His followers have done.
I’m not always sure what form that work will take in the future (because it is sure to change). But I do know that my life will be meaningless unless I am continually doing something that moves people toward Christ. I hope I never lose my sense of appreciation for all the good things that God has given me in life as a means of spiritual and emotional renewal. But I also hope I never get stuck there, making out of them an idol in some way. Because, like Abraham, I want to be counted among those who are looking for a City whose builder and maker is God.