“From time to time one must recreate and relax in mind and body. It is actually a defect to be so strict, austere and unsociable that one permits neither oneself nor others any recreation time.” -Saint Francis de Sales
The long awaited season of summer is at last upon us. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already got your flip-flops and sun glasses ready for some serious relaxing. But before we delve too deeply into vacation mode, let’s consider how we can use our free time wisely this summer.
But I’ve been busy all year round, you moan. Give me a break! First of all, let me say I agree wholeheartedly that everyone needs a break from time to time. God even rested on the seventh day. So I know where you’re coming from and I do agree. But the question I pose is this, just how do you relax?
When you’re sitting contently in a beach chair with your tall glass of iced tea, are you pouring over mindless dime novels or are you selecting more stimulating reads? Instead of investing in another boy-meets-girl tale, go to the library and find books you can learn from. Everyone has an area they really ought to be more knowledgeable in. For myself, I will be reading books ranging from managing money to child training. I’m pretty certain I won’t be rearing children or managing a household for a couple years at least, but now is the time to prepare. That way you don’t fail the first year of gardening because you lacked sufficient knowledge or when a medical emergency arrives, you make a fatal mistake in your misguided attempt to help. Remember, nothing you learn will be lost to you.
And reading isn’t the only worthwhile pastime. What about playing a musical instrument, baking, hiking, or simply spending quality time with people? Everyone has different interests, so this list ought to be tailored to you, by you. Next time you get ready to settle in for yet another “Say Yes to the Dress” marathon, why not instead do something that adds value to your life.
There are two main reasons why we must be aware of just how we spend this free time. The first is that we be good stewards of the time given to us. The second is that we do not become too engrossed in pointless hobbies. The danger is not so much in relaxation itself, but that we grow too accustom to leisure. St. Francis de Sales spoke of this matter in his writings, “If you spend too much time on games they are no longer recreations but occupations. If your love for a game is disproportionate or the stakes played for are too high, passions get mixed with it, and emotions get out of control.” I believe we all know someone who has been carried away with their love for a trivial pastime. Perhaps the person is yourself. A little self-examination from time to time is always a good practice. It can be surprising what you’ll discover about yourself. Now is the time to abandon fruitless endeavors for matter of real significance.
So just what defines a worthwhile activity? It is something that either enriches you in mind, body, or spirit, or else does the same for others. So although board games may not improve your quality of life, playing them with your brother can become a fond memory he will one day cherish.
There are many ways with which one can fill a lazy summer day. I am not proposing a strict schedule to be made out and followed without deviation. I do suggest some thought goes into these carefree, empty days, lest you find your summer past and those months a total loss. I cannot stress enough how precious a gift time is. If I stop and ponder the frailty and briefness of this life for even a moment I am astonished at my own lack of urgency.
So the moral of the story? Recreation is good and necessary, but we must be careful not to allow it to drain our lives and ourselves of the things that truly matter. Rather than fritter away yet another summer, take full advantage of this time and the opportunities it presents you.