Recreation Renews and Restores

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

There's nothing quite like summer! School's out for most of us; the sun's out strong; and there are so many fun recreational things to do. Webster points out that the word recreation means "restoration to health," and "to create anew, restore, refresh."

Since this is what recreation is all about, it makes sense that our recreational activities would make us feel restored, refreshed, healthy, new, and in good spirits. Do they? How can we ensure that our activities invigorate us and create us anew?

The best way to make us feel restored is to make sure our recreational activities are full of the activity of the Christ. Paul affirms: "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (I Cor. 10:31). All means everything. Everything we do is intended to glorify God, which includes recreation. Glorifying God in our recreational activities means several things:

  1. Choosing activities that improve our lives and magnify the good in our lives.
  2. Making sure our motives for doing these activities are pure.
  3. Having a balance in our daily lives.
  4. Expressing God by:
    1. improving upon the talents He's given us;
    2. demonstrating God-like qualities, such as grace, rhythm, athleticism, energy, intelligence, creativity.
  5. Putting the focus on God and not ourselves by:
    1. being happy regardless of the level of our performance in a given activity;
    2. being grateful for all that God has given us.
    3. learning more about His creation and trying new things.
  6. Praying about the various aspects of our activities.

1. Choosing activities
As we decide what to do, we can ask ourselves some questions:

  • Will what I'm doing add to the quality of my life?
  • Am I expressing God-like qualities when I do this -- intelligence, strength, poise?
  • Is this a waste of time? Is this activity upholding moral values, or is it distracting, harmful, or destructive to my ability to think and act clearly, wisely, and lovingly?
  • Is this the best thing for me to do right now, or could I be doing something better?

2. Purifying motives
We need to be honest with ourselves if we really want to bring the Christ into our recreational activities. This requires self-examination. Luke writes, "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). If our motive in doing what we enjoy is to exercise kindness, respect, and other God-given qualities, there's no way we could offend God or others.

3. Being balanced

  • We may choose to sleep in, read, watch TV, and hang out leisurely with our friends, which can be very relaxing. But if this is all we do every day, we're neglecting our bodies.
  • On the flip side, if all we do is go to the gym to make our bodies fit, we're neglecting our intellect and creativity.
  • While Paul may have had something else in mind when he wrote this, his words can pertain to recreation: "glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Cor. 6:20).

Remember, recreation is supposed to restore health. Health is a state of mind which the body then reflects. All of our activities should help us grow spiritually. The most important way to stay balanced is to put God first:

Exercise daily in God -- no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. (The Message, I Tim. 4:7, 8)

4. Expressing God
We each have our own interests, and we want to explore those interests to their fullest potential. God gave us gifts to use. We don't want to ignore those gifts. The way that we make the most of what we've been given is to become conscious of expressing God and translate our activities into spiritual qualities. For instance:

  • If we dance, we can think of ourselves as expressing God's rhythm, grace, individuality.
  • If we wakeboard, we can think about expressing timing, energy, fluidity, pop.
  • If we play tennis, we may demonstrate accuracy, strategy, focus.
  • If we hike, we can express persistence, strength, and expect a great view at the top.
  • If we ride horses, we can think of the communication coming from God to us and the horse, of strength, gentleness, and harmony.
  • If we read, we can be grateful for the plethora of ideas or be interested in what we're learning. And, we can even read what Jesus expected us to read -- the Scriptures.
  • If we write or paint, we can allow God's creativity to shine through us as we explore ideas, colors, images, styles.

Translating our human activities into spiritual qualities lifts our thoughts higher, enabling us to soar in whatever endeavor we choose.

5. Putting the focus on God
What if we don't perform to the level of our expectations? Do we get frustrated and quit, or do we let go of self, get rid of ego, and give the glory to God? Getting upset at ourselves for not doing well is selfish. We're seeing ourselves as the source of our talent rather than God. We need to remember that "it is God which worketh in [us] both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). It's more important to express God-like qualities than prove ourselves humanly. This does not mean that we should not strive for greatness. This just means that we need to be patient with ourselves. Becoming really good at something usually takes work and time. Focusing on God and being grateful for the little progress we make creates an environment which is conducive to growth, whereas being frustrated tends to cloud thought and stymie progress. When we're happy and relaxed, everything works better.

But what if we feel we're not that athletic, or we don't enjoy reading, or we have no talents? We certainly can't let fear keep us from acting. God didn't create us to be afraid. He created us to have dominion. We prove our dominion when we rely on God rather than ourselves. The Bible reminds us that "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isa. 40:31). Waiting on God gives us the courage to try something new. If we try surfing for the first time, we can think about demonstrating God's balance, timing, and poise. So what if we fall down? We get right back up! Plus, God's creation is all around us, so we can rejoice in the beauty of the beach, the dolphins that may swim by, and the sun glinting off of the ocean waves as we discover more about ourselves and God.

6. Praying about our activities
Sometimes when we're doing recreational activities, especially physically active ones that take us outside, we find ourselves looking a problem in the face. Some of these problems might be sun-burn, accident, dehydration, bee-stings. So, it's important to protect our activities by praying. Before we start our day of fun, let's know that God keeps us safe every moment. If we've established that our activities belong to God, then we can rest assured in God's love. Here are two passages from the Bible that we can rely on as we start our day and continue through our activities:

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Isa. 55:12)

The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. (Zeph. 3:17)

How comforting it is to know that with everything we do, God provides us peace, encouragement, strength, protection, rest, love, and joy. As we express these qualities in our activities, we can't help but feel the sense of renewal that comes from finding our true recreation in understanding God's divine, complete, energetic, and beautiful creation.