permission for leisure

Here’s a devotional by Charles Swindoll that I found rather refreshing, if not in places convicting. Even now, as I sit here in my living room, the sunlight just newly breaking through the leaves to dance in revelry on my walls, I find myself strangely unable (or unwilling?) to allow myself the space for leisure. ‘There’s always something more to do,’ my mind tells me. In fact, to illustrate the point. I was asked yesterday afternoon over lunch what I do for fun. My knee-jerk response was, ‘what time for fun do I have?’ That is a tragic response to a beautiful question.

What do you do for fun? What do you love?

Give Yourself Permission

by Charles R. Swindoll

Ephesians 5:1

Since most humans suffer from a lack of balance in their lives, our best counsel on living a steady and stable life comes from God’s Word. In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he includes this most unusual command:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . .” (Ephesians 5:1 NIV)

Maybe you never realized such a statement was in the Bible. It seems unusual: “imitators of God”! The Greek term translated “be imitators” is mimeomai, from which we get the English word mimic. One reliable scholar says this verb “is always used in exhortations, and always in the continuous tense, suggesting a constant habit or practice.”¹

In other words, this is neither a passing thought nor a once-in-a-blue-moon experience. The practice of our being people who “mimic God” is to become our daily habit. We are to do what He does. Respond to life as He responds. Emulate similar traits. Model His style.

But to do that, to be an imitator of God, requires that we come to terms with the value of quietness, slowing down, coming apart from the noise and speed of today’s pace and broadening our lives with a view of the eternal reach of time. It means saying no to more and more activities that increase the speed of our squirrel cage, knowing God requires that we “be still” (Psalm 46:10 NIV).

To be God-mimics, we must begin to realize that leisure is not a take-it-or-leave-it luxury.

Please understand that leisure is more than idle time not devoted to paid occupations. Some of the most valuable work done in the world has been done at leisure . . . and never paid for in cash. Leisure is free activity. Labor is compulsory activity. In leisure, we do what we like, but in labor, we do what we must. In our labor, we meet the objective needs and demands of others—our employer, the public, people who are affected by and through our work. But in leisure, we scratch the subjective itches within ourselves. In leisure, our minds are liberated from the immediate, the necessary. As we incorporate leisure into the mainstream of our world, we gain perspective. We lift ourselves above the grit and grind of mere existence.

Interestingly, “leisure” comes from the Latin word licere, which means “to be permitted.” If we are ever going to inculcate leisure into our otherwise utilitarian routine, we must give ourselves permission to do so.

1. W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. II (Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940), 248.