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Leftovers Are OK

For food but not leisure time

Erin dipped her brush into the bucket of soapy water and scrubbed the kitchen floor. Gazing at me with 3-year-old eyes she begged, “Please, please can I stop now?” “Of course, you may, Cutie-Pie!” I responded. “No, Mommy! You have to say, ‘No, Cinderella, you must keep working!’” I repeated the words with a stern tone and an imposing physical stance. With a smile of satisfaction, my little Cinderella happily splashed more suds onto the floor. It ended up spotless, but Erin hadn’t “worked” at all. Just how should we approach work and leisure in family life?

Should Leisure be “Leftover” Time?

If leisure means work is finished, then family life has little time for leisure. Even if the house is as neat as a pin, isn’t it a good idea to finish those outdoor projects? Perhaps the kitchen needs painting and those boxes in the basement could use some sorting ... Dr. Gaylene Carpenter of the University of Oregon conducted a 10-year study of leisure. Men, on the average, had 18 to 32 hours of free time per week whereas women average 16 to 21 hours per week. The majority of both sexes, however, longed for more discretionary time.

How to make Leisure a “Chosen” Activity

Leisure includes freedom, being able to choose to engage in a particular activity. Are there certain activities that we could label as “leisure” activities? For some, fishing is a leisure activity – a time to relax, to appreciate water and sky. For others, fishing is a livelihood. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells Simon to lower the fishing nets and Simon replies, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at Your command I will lower the nets.” Simon’s work wasn’t successful – an entire night of fishing and nothing to show for it. But Simon chose to follow God’s will, despite his discouragement.

Leisure as “Being”

In the flow of eternal love, is there “leftover” time? Our deepest longing is for union with God, to rest in the arms of the Beloved. Caring for family and friends, putting food on the table and shelter over our heads is hard work. But every task offers a choice: to work and to play, to love and to learn, in the presence of God. In the 1800s, John Sullivan Dwight wrote, “Is not true leisure, one with true toil? ... Rest is not quitting the busy career, rest is the fitting of self to one’s sphere. ... loving and serving the Highest and Best! ‘Tis onwards! Unswerving, and that is true rest.”