We are living in a time of great mental, emotional, and physical stress. In turn, taking care of ourselves, or allowing God to take care of us, is more important than ever before. For many, the words peacefulness, joy, and goodness—all fruits of the Holy Spirit—elicit a sort of desirable calmness. Fortunately, experiencing these fruits through leisure is possible. However, not all opportunities are created equal. What you do for leisure may make all the difference in helping you find what you are seeking.
Pause for a moment to think about how you pursue leisure.
What activities or opportunities do you engage in?
After thinking about these things, allow yourself to explore whether you experience joy, peace, goodness, or a fulfilling calmness while doing these things. If not, it may be because the experience simply does not lend itself to the restoration you are seeking. For example, after a stress-filled day, many of us often turn to forms of entertainment that exacerbate the problem. Whether it be media-based platforms or our own constant pursuit of bigger and greater desires, we often fill our opportunities for leisure with thoughts of doing or being someone or something greater. As a result, we feel more overextended, exhausted, stressed, and anxious, instead of at peace and fulfilled. Is there anything we can do to stop this?
We find an answer in Matthew’s Gospel:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6:25–34)
In this passage, Jesus speaks about being presently-minded. In this, he invites us to trust God by drawing our focus and worries away from the past and the future and to bring our attention to our lives in a greater way. Jesus asks us to open our minds and hearts to the fulfilling and restorative value and depth of the readily available experiences around us—consider the birds of the air, the lilies of the field. By opening your senses, you can explore with more intention the things that you can see, taste, hear, smell, and feel. When practiced, the common response is a two-fold experience of wonder and rejuvenation as you open your mind to your life in a greater way. Gratitude and joy are soon to follow as you saturate your senses by experiencing the goodness and immensity of God and his blessings.
Keeping with this focus as a foundation, here are several practices that will help you to cultivate true leisure in the midst of stress. Begin by pausing your intake of unnecessary information. In other words, give yourself a moment away from scrolling, flipping, and searching. Rather than having your brain run at full speed as you constantly sift through information, facilitating moments of respite can allow your brain to slow down and your heart to experience peace. During these moments, feel free to put yourself into beautiful experiences. Go outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Watch the sun rise. Lie on your back and gaze up at the sky. Feel the grass beneath your feet. Or even savor a delicious treat. All of these and many other opportunities can rejuvenate your spirit as you remain present to the beauty around you. In turn, experiencing rejuvenation through leisure does not require you to acquire or plan much of anything. You just have to allow yourself to be where your feet are and let the Father fill you with his love.
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Featured image by Marten Bjork via Unsplash