Monday, August 7, 2017

God can bring us healing through our hobbies

Author's Note: This is the last post in a series stemming back from May 1st.  To see that post, click here.  Also, sometime soon, you'll be seeing a guest post in reference to this topic.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I Corinthians 10:31

I stepped into my pastor's office for my first counseling appointment. I was convinced I needed help at that point, about a month after moving back into our home. I had been to the hospital, anxiety-driven sleepless nights continued to plague me, and I dreaded stepping onto campus. I felt ineffective in my calling, and I wondered just how I had gotten to this point. What would God have to do to help me finally be free of this affliction?

I expected extra-spiritual advice. What I got was far more profound. “Have you purchased a fire extinguisher?” he asked.

The question confounded me. I was here to talk about the state of my soul, and he wanted to talk about whether I had bought something. Yet, to my shame, I hadn't yet. “No...” I replied.

Ok... buy a couple of fire extinguishers, make a fire plan for your family, and when you feel anxiety come on, go and either work out, or buy a punching bag, because adrenaline is coursing through your veins and you need a healthy outlet to work it out.”

What?” I thought. The advice should have made sense, as the physical always affects the spiritual. But I was so stuck on the “spiritual” things that I could do (praying, fasting, bible reading, ministry), that I had never considered that my soul might be helped by normal life. Of course it made sense afterwards. I'm called to cast my anxiety on the Lord, but it's a lot easier to do that if I know I have a fire extinguisher in the house in case of a fire. I'm called to cast my anxiety on the Lord, and it's easier to do that if I can utilize the physical effects of anxiety, namely, the adrenaline fuel, to my advantage rather than my detriment.

Now, that's not to say I should give into anxiety, rather to recognize that there are ways to wisely combat the level of anxiety and struggle we have in our lives if we trust the Lord in the normal rhythms of life. It's good for me, as a husband and father, to love my family by securing our home with those extinguishers. It's good for me to steward my body. But is it ok for me to have a break?

That was the next thing my pastor brought up to me. “Do you have any hobbies?” He asked. I listed off a litany of them. “I blog, I read, I keep up with other blogs, I do stuff on campus, I...”

Do you do anything not campus related?” He asked.

Nothing that doesn't make me feel guilty,” I replied. I realized that as I had gotten knee deep in ministry, I had put undue pressure on myself to never rest, even if it was what I was thinking about. In hindsight, it was probably a level of self-righteousness, since I always was trying to fight against a previous reputation of being lazy. Rather than trusting Christ, I instead said, “I will always do something 'godly'.

Now, of course, I wasn't actually being godly in doing that. But it revealed something to me that I hadn't considered for a long time: is it ok to do things without it being some sort of ministry? Is it ok to just enjoy God and what He has created?

The answer is a resounding yes! In fact, our entire posture should be one of FIRST glorifying Jesus for who He is. And how do we glorify Jesus? By rightly enjoying Him AND rightly enjoying His creation.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:15-16)

Jesus, the image of the invisible God, created all things, and they were all created for Him. That includes us, and all of what has been created. As long as we enjoy things the way God intended them to be enjoyed, we have freedom. Yes, joyous freedom to enjoy Jesus AND enjoy all of the things He created!

So, I can watch football? YES! I can talk about and enjoy becoming a better cook? YES! I can play with my kids without making sure I make some witty gospel connection that day? YES! I can spend money on a vacation and enjoy good things that God has created? YES!

And what I found was, as I freed myself up to discover what I liked to do away from ministry, I found myself loving Christ more, and therefore, loving people more. I went to a live Ohio State football game for the first time in four years. I realized I would love to do it again, but that I don't need to for a while. I discovered just how much I love cooking. I rediscovered my love for writing fiction, and I spent more time with family. And you know what's crazy? These were the things that helped me heal more than anything; God's common grace displayed through things I enjoyed.

That's not to say we should become captive to our hobbies, rather to see them as strategic times of worshiping the God who created them! With that being said, here are a few takeaways:

1. Create space to enjoy hobbies, and share them with others

2. Experiment to find which hobbies you enjoy

3. Praise God for how He's uniquely made you

4. Praise God for how He uses these hobbies to grow your love for Him, and for others