The passage in Genesis 2 is so familiar. After God made man, He observed a need inside that life, a nagging loneliness that Adam couldn’t shake.
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)
As a fulfilment to the promise to help Adam with his need for companionship, God got involved:
So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)
Later we read that the Lord came to relate to His creatures “in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). I take it that such a time must have been a common practice between the Lord God and Adam and Eve.
He considered them valuable, so the infinite Creator-God took time to relate with His friends in the garden of Eden. He got personally involved. He observed their needs. He carved out time and went to the trouble to do whatever to help them. He cultivated that friendship. He saw it as a worthwhile activity.
I was amused at a cartoon that appeared in a magazine. It was the picture of a thief wearing one of those “Lone Ranger” masks. His gun was pointed toward his frightened victim as he yelled: “Okay, gimmee all your valuables!”
The victim began stuffing into the sack all his friends.
How valuable are relationships to you? If you have trouble answering that, I’ll help you decide. Stop and think back over the past month or two. How much of your leisure have you spent developing and enjoying relationships?
Jesus, God’s Son, certainly considered the relationship He had with His disciples worth His time. They spent literally hours together. They ate together and wept together, and I’m sure they must have laughed together as well. Being God, He really didn’t “need” those men. He certainly didn’t need the hassle they created on occasion. But He loved those twelve men. He believed in them. They had a special relationship, a lot like Paul, Silas, and Timothy; David and Jonathan; Barnabas and John Mark; and Elijah and Elisha.
As the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once put it, “Friendship is a sheltering tree.”1 How very true! Whatever leisure time we are able to invest in relationships is time well spent. And when we do, let’s keep in mind we are “imitating God,” for His Son certainly did.
How to Implement Leisure
The bottom line of all this, of course, is actually doing it. We can nod in agreement until we turn blue, but our greatest need is not inclination; it’s demonstration.
Here are two suggestions that will help.
1. Deliberately stop being absorbed with the endless details of life. Our Saviour said it straight when He declared that we cannot, at the same time, serve both God and man. But we try so hard! If Jesus’s words from Matthew 6 are saying anything, they are saying, “Don’t sweat the things only God can handle.” Each morning, deliberately decide not to allow worry to steal your time and block your leisure.
2. Consciously start taking time for leisure. After God put the world together, He rested. We are commanded to imitate Him.
For the rest to occur in our lives, Christ Jesus must be in proper focus. He must be in His rightful place before we can ever expect to get our world to fall into place.
A bone-weary father dragged into his home dog-tired late one evening. It had been one of those unbelievable days of pressure, deadlines, and demands. He looked forward to a time of relaxation and quietness. Exhausted, he picked up the evening paper and headed for his favourite easy chair by the fireplace. About the time he got his shoes untied, plop! Into his lap dropped his five-year-old son with a big grin.
“Hi, Dad . . . let’s play!”
He loved his boy dearly, but his need for a little time all alone to repair and think was, for the moment, a greater need than time with Junior. But how could he manoeuvre it?
There had been a recent moon probe, and the newspaper carried a huge picture of earth. With a flash of much-needed insight, the dad asked his boy to bring a pair of scissors and some transparent tape. Quickly, he cut the picture of earth into various shapes and sizes, then handed the homemade jigsaw puzzle over to his son in a pile.
“You tape it all back together, Danny, then come on back and we’ll play, okay?”
Off scampered the child to his room as Dad breathed a sigh of relief. But in less than ten minutes the boy bounded back with everything taped in perfect place. Stunned, the father asked, “How’d you do it so fast, son?”
“Aw, it was easy, Daddy. You see, there’s this picture of a man on the back of the sheet . . . and when you put the man together, the world comes together.”
So it is in life. When we put the Man in His rightful place, it’s amazing what happens to our world. And, more important, what happens to us. I can assure you that in the final analysis of your life—when you stop some day and look back on the way you spent your time—your use of leisure will be far more important than those hours you spent with your nose to the grindstone. Don’t wait until it’s too late to enjoy life.
Live it up now. Throw yourself into it with abandonment. Get up out of the rut of work long enough to see that there’s more to life than a job and a paycheque. You’ll never be the same! Your stress fractures will heal.
To put it another way, you’ll start having the time of your life.
. . .
Lord, our God,
Habits and fears, guilt and discontentment have teamed up against us and pinned us to the mat of monotony.
We find ourselves running in a tight radius, like a rat in a sewer pipe. Our world has become too small, too routine, too grim. Although busy, we have to confess that a nagging sense of boredom has now boarded our ship in this journey of life. We are enduring the scenery instead of enjoying it. We really take ourselves too seriously . . . and our stress continues to multiply.
We desire change . . . a cure from this terminal illness of dullness and routine.
We are sheep, not rats. You have made us whole people who are free to think and relax in leisure, not slaves chained to a schedule. Enable us to break loose! Show us ways to do that. Give us the courage to start today and the hope we need to stay fresh tomorrow . . . and the next day, and the next.
Bring the child out from within us. Introduce us again to the sounds and smells and sights of this beautiful world you wrapped around us. Convince us of the importance of friendships and laughter and wonder. Put our world back together.
May we become people like Your Son, committed to the highest standard of excellence and devotion to Your will, yet easy to live with and at peace within.
In His strong name we pray.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Youth and Age,” Stanza 2, Familiar Quotations (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955), 425a.
Excerpted from Stress Fractures, Copyright © 1982-1988, 1990-1995, 2014 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.