by the Rev. Paul D. Griffin
Whenever someone mentions the word "leisure", I immediately think of those hideous polyester leisure suits that were so popular back in the 1970's - not that I had ever actually worn one, mind you. Yet, despite this word's intimate association with one of mankind's lowest points of fashion history, the important role which leisure plays in the overall health and well-being of every individual cannot be diminished.
As Christians, we have long known that the human person is composed of both a body and a soul. However, while each person has been formed from the unity of these two elements (body and soul), there are in fact four dimensions to each of us - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. And, while each of these dimensions is distinct, they are interconnected and dependent upon one another due to the fact that each human being is a unified whole. Thus, if one or more of these dimensions within and individual has been neglected or impaired in any way, his or her overall health, well-being, and, quite naturally, happiness, will be adversely affected.
We humans are rather complex beings, and for us to live integrated, balanced and whole lives, we must continually work to develop and nourish each of these four dimensions within ourselves. In other words, the development of our full human potential as individuals does not simply happen on its own as a result of nature, as we are instead obligated to ensure that such development occurs continuously throughout our lives.
So, what does leisure have to do with all of this? Well, quite a bit, actually, as the time that we spend in leisure activities (or, more importantly, the lack thereof), has a rather substantial impact upon these four dimensions of our existence.
The role of leisure in our physical dimension should be rather obvious. The human body is not a robot or machine, as it is instead a highly complex organism which requires an adequate amount of both exercise and rest to continuously maintain and repair itself. The time that we invest in leisurely pursuits affords our bodies the opportunity to achieve these ends.
Leisure time is also an important element in maintaining sound mental health. The everyday concerns that bear upon each of us, coupled with any specific matters that may warrant our attention, can, at times, simply appear to be too much for us. Leisure activities prove to be a welcome break from our obsessing over such concerns by giving our minds the chance to focus on less demanding and stressful matters. More often than not, we return from such activities refreshed and ready to deal with our problems in a more objective and productive manner.
As human beings, God has created us to be in communion not only with Himself, but also with each other. So, to be fully human requires us to be able to live and communicate well with our fellow man, and this cannot be achieved unless our emotional lives are properly developed and balanced. Leisure activities provide an excellent opportunity for us to come into contact with others and develop our inter-personal skills while establishing and maintaining the bonds of love and friendship which are so important to our emotional well-being and stability.
Finally, on the spiritual plane, leisure activities invite us to recall the beauty and goodness of God which is reflected in all of His creation. While God's Spirit does not specifically dwell within the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of the ocean, or the serene and subtle pleasure that arises when sharing a cup of coffee with a good friend, such events help to remind us that God's gift of human life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.
So, this summer, be sure to throw out your leisure suit and put on your bathing suit! Life is a gift - so relax and enjoy it!