I used to work for a guy known for saying, “I’ll rest when I’m dead!” He ran a ministry and believed there were too many people who needed to hear about Jesus to take much time for himself. I thought this was admirable. But I noticed he also got sick a lot.
For awhile, I also felt the weight of his responsibility. In the summers, the organization hosted a four-week camp at which I was on call around the clock. At about week three, I was so sleep deprived, I ended up huddled in a corner of my office, sobbing. What good was pouring into the spiritual lives of others when I had nothing left to give? Even God rested at the end of a work week (Genesis 2:3).
When my supervisor ordered me to take the afternoon off, I did what any good Christian girl does: I went to bible study.
“Bible Study” is what I named the blue, plastic wading pool in my backyard. I pulled on my bathing suit, slathered on sunscreen, and took to some of my favorite hobbies: reading, journaling, listening to music. Chilling in Bible Study helped me get back in touch with myself, and back in touch with God. And this got me thinking: what if some of our most spiritual activities are actually disguised as our favorite pastimes?
AND ON THE EIGHTH DAY, GOD CREATED HOBBIES
I’ve heard some Christians say hobbies are selfish and frivolous and don’t glorify God. I disagree. Did you know the first recorded hobby is in the Bible?
OK. I’m not a biblical scholar, so perhaps this is a stretch. But while the Bible doesn’t say, “And on the eighth day, God created hobbies,” it does say God placed the first man, Adam, in the Garden of Eden and gave him something to do. He told Adam to take care of the Garden. This is where things get interesting.
After God gave Adam a job he declared, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and said he would make a companion for Adam. Best-selling author Donald Miller makes an interesting observation about this event in his book Searching for God Knows What? “God did not create Eve directly after he stated Adam was lonely.” He first gave Adam another task.
Enter Adam’s hobby: “He brought the animals to man to see what he would call them” (Genesis 3:19).
Have you ever considered how many years this would keep a guy occupied? A quick Internet search turns up results for 2 to 50 million species of animals. Miller says naming the animals could have taken a hundred years. And this whole time, Adam couldn’t find a living creature like himself (Genesis 2:21). It is only at the end of this major task that God gives Eve to Adam. And when Adam sees her, he remarks about her likeness to him, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23, NIV). Adam names her “woman.” Miller says, “God had [Adam] hang out with chimps for a hundred years. It’s quite beautiful, really. God directed Adam’s steps so that when he created Eve, Adam would have the utmost appreciation, respect, and gratitude.”
These tenets are foundational to our relationship with God—they’re foundational to any healthy, meaningful relationship. Our activities do not limit God from revealing something about himself—and about the Christian life—to us.
“GOD MADE ME FOR A PURPOSE. BUT HE ALSO MADE ME FAST.”
To be honest, I’m kind of floored some Christians need a biblical justification for having a hobby. If you type “Christians + hobbies” into a Google search, you’ll discover a page full of anxieties: “Are hobbies sinful?” “Is it wrong for Christians to have hobbies?” “Are hobbies idolatrous?” “Is it selfish to spend time on a hobby instead of praying?”
Yikes, people! Calm down. Hobbies don’t have to separate us from God. In fact, they may help us stay more spiritually connected.
I know a guy who is a concert violinist. He says he feels God’s presence when he’s alone in his practice room. Another friend loves to dance. She says she feels most alive in the middle of a cha-cha. One guy communes with God when he’s fishing. And another friend says she feels closest to God when she is playing with her kids.
This helps me understand another piece of the story of Adam. Of all the things God could have given Adam to do, why name a bunch of animals? I have to think Adam was a nature lover. Otherwise, it would be cruel to plop a guy who hates bugs, and trees, and wild animals in the middle of a territory and say, “Care for it.” And, honestly, if you’re looking for a guy to do a good job, that’s just bad hiring. If God created Adam to love nature, then discovering and naming the animals must have been great fun for Adam. I imagine him chuckling as he watched penguins waddle across glaciers, slip-sliding on their bellies into the Antarctic. I imagine him silenced by the graceful dance of a bloom of jellyfish. And can you imagine when he first saw Eve?
I have to think Adam’s delight made God very happy, too. A line from the movie Chariots of Fire about Olympic runner Eric Liddell articulates this exchange: “I believe God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.” Not many would call running or playing football particularly spiritual, but I believe God is pleased when we enjoy being who he made us and acknowledge him for it.
DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE DEAD
If our Type-A, American culture and its multi-billion-dollar coffee industry tells us anything, it’s that rest does not come naturally. It takes discipline to push pause when so many things around us scream for our attention. But God demonstrated the importance of rest (Genesis 2:3), and commands us to care for our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19–20), which includes our minds and our spiritual well-being. Far from frivolous, hobbies are just one of many ways we can do this, all the while connecting with God and, in the process, developing a deeper relationship with him. Don’t wait until you’re dead to get a hobby.