by Jan Johnson
Recreation refreshes, renews and, in a sense, re-creates the body and the mind.
During recreation, we actively participate in something that diverts our thinking and refreshes our attitude: playing basketball, visiting an art gallery, singing in a choir or walking in a park. Active recreation can imitate the adventurous life with God — the excitement of a fast-moving vehicle, the learning of a beautiful yet powerful tennis serve or the harmony of a model train layout that imitates the ups, downs and roundabouts of life but always returns home.
Some people, however, see recreation as a consumer commodity to be used up without reflection, done to gain admiration or grind other people into the ground. It becomes tied up with equipment (a bigger boat, better skis or newer golf clubs) or toys (“He who dies with the most toys wins”). Franciscan priest Richard Rohr notes, “Much recreation does not re-create us, but is only diversionary. I think that’s why Americans need so much recreation and entertainment. If it doesn’t really entertain or refresh, we will need more very soon. But for open persons, those who know how to receive and let events teach them, a little bit goes a long way.”
Consider the difference between playing golf to achieve a good score, to beat a certain opponent or to show off equipment versus playing golf to enjoy the movement of a well-executed swing, to appreciate the beauty of the golf course or to welcome someone new into the family. These latter motivations are about enjoying God — including how God made our bodies to move in ways we didn’t know they could — and enjoying people.
Simplicity of leisure involves enjoying the outdoors and viewing natural objects in their own setting rather than as objects that are useful to us: to view a river as a source of beauty and a created wonder rather than a watery surface on which a boat rides to carry water-skiers. This mindset requires a different way of seeing, however.
For example, a large arroyo runs the length of the city where my family lives. As we ride our bikes on the path alongside this arroyo, we have seen all kinds of herons, snow geese, white egrets, cormorants, killdeer, coots, stilts, sandpipers and ducks, as well as more common birds. While hiking in our hills, we’ve traced the arroyo’s headwaters to a nearby mountain pass and wondered at how it makes its journey through our valley and eventually to the ocean. When an acquaintance referred to this portion of God’s playground as “the drainage ditch,” I didn’t know what she was talking about. What we saw as a natural wonder she saw as a place where people might dump stuff.
Excerpted from Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson (IVP), Putting the “‘Free’” in Free Time, page 123. Used by permission.