Recently I was speaking with world traveller Jonathan van Bilsen, who said he appreciates the slow pace of non-western nations. He said, many don't have televisions or other gadgetry to distract their focus. In the West, a culture of overworking ourselves to buy the updated version of something we already own, persists. But in many other cultures, people work hard for one purpose, to provide for their families. They spend all their free time socializing with family and friends.
Amidst this Western cultural mindset, I've come to see a negative side effect of our hobbies. As we've been able to move away from being workaholics, we've replaced work with equally burdensome hobbies. In this area, the idiom “a change is as good as a rest” doesn't fully apply. Change helps us, with a form of rest, but whatever happened to the good old-fashioned art of plain old resting? When was the last time you did “nothing”?
I'm not advocating laziness. We should work hard, even above and beyond expectations. We should pull our weight, and be responsible. In fact, I enjoy working hard, when I get into the rhythm of things. I like to-do lists, and checking off their contents as I go. I've been known to skip meals and delay sleep when working on a project. But that's the problem! Working hard isn't an issue, but there's a time and place for everything.
King Solomon, often considered one of the wisest men who ever lived, said these words in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Further on in the chapter, he mentions there is a time for building, and for laughing and embracing.
What are you building, and what did you build it for? Have you lost sight of why you are building your life, or who you've been working for? Have you spent so much time working to support your family, that you don't spend time with them? Have you worked so hard in your ministry, you don't have time to do face to face outreach, to touch another life one on one?
Some of us have imagined unreachable dollar figures around our expectations for happiness. Some of us have let unrealistic levels of productivity become our obsession. Have we begun to seek goals in our work, other than the reasons we started working in the first place?
Your family doesn't need a big screen 4K television. You don't need the brand new iPhone. Your family will get by without multiple cars, a cottage, a boat, or a yearly trip to Florida. They don't need those things, they need you. Set reasonable working hours, and limit, or eliminate altogether, hobbies that keep you away from those you love.
Each of us comes across a unique set of people in our lives. Many other people will come across those same people, but you're the only you they'll ever know. There's something specific you can give them of yourself. It isn't your hard work, or money, or the things those monies can buy, that they need you to give them. It's you yourself.
We are in the midst of, what my Dad likes to call, the “Season of Giving”. This starts with Remembrance Day and continues all through the Christmas season. During this time, let's focus on putting our work and hobbies back where they belong. Instead of letting those become our primary focus, let's enjoy the people we've been blessed to call our own.