I took my kids to the playground one day in early February. It was bitterly cold, but the sun was shining, and we’d all felt cooped up for far too long inside our house. So we bundled up and committed to some time of play on swings and slides after what had been a long day at online school and our home office.

It was glorious. The polar vortex whipped at my son’s cheeks and blew my daughter’s hair into a tizzy, but we barely felt the frigid air. And as I stood to the side of the park and watched my children run and play and laugh together, my heart was fully warmed by the reality that we were here, we were whole and we were free to find joy in the simple pleasures of life.

Bestselling author and podcaster Annie F. Downs suggests in her book, That Sounds Fun, that our souls crave these moments of leisure because they remind us of Eden.

“Eden is the first place humans ever lived, according to the Bible,” Downs writes. “In Genesis 2, before there was sin and before there was the brokenness we all feel, there was Eden. The humans there worked and gardened and cared for the animals and loved each other with no shame. And it was how things were always supposed to be.”

Of course, the world doesn’t look much like Eden anymore. We’ve been reminded of this all the more as we’ve navigated this past year of pandemic. But that doesn’t mean we long for it any less.

Ruth Haley Barton, author of Sacred Rhythms, agrees that there is something holy about finding healthy rhythms of work, play and rest. While most would agree that fun and leisure enrich our lives, so much gets in the way of prioritizing it. Tough days, full schedules, high expectations and even poor mental health can keep us from taking time to engage in hobbies and leisure activities.

Honestly, when was the last time you did something just for the fun of it?

Whether you find pleasure in hugging a dog, planting a garden, going for a hike, calling a friend, playing sports, learning a musical instrument or any other unique experience, what our fun times each seem to have in common is the ability to transport us away from the stresses of life, if even temporarily. There’s something simple about fun. It frees us from our egos, our worries and the weight of life.

That’s not to say that leisure time can’t be abused. Many turn it into unhealthy escapism, bingeing on Netflix shows or social media and calling it fun. But healthy hobbies and activities are those that remind us of a simpler time and draw us closer into relationship with others and with God. During this lockdown, I have found peace in arranging household items in unique ways for flat-lay photography. I have also learned ways of playing Monopoly and Yahtzee over video calls with far-away family.

Though we’ve lost Eden in many ways, we are constantly glimpsing it in moments of play.

While I do enjoy helping my children with their homework and I celebrate their hard-earned achievements, what I truly delight in are those moments when I can engage with them in a hobby they love or simply observe them at play. It is in these moments that my mother-heart is happiest.

I suspect it’s the same way with God.

Just as I find joy in watching my children play, so God finds joy in watching us enjoy life. In fact, we rob God of joy when we do not find time for hobbies and fun. And in this productivity-saturated world that values busyness and efficiency above all else, we so often rob him of that joy because we do not take the time for play and fun and rest.

So don’t feel guilty the next time you set aside your to-do list temporarily, or leave the dishes in the sink for a few hours, to do something your heart loves. Instead, remember that God loves you like the child you are. And he delights in watching you find joy in life.

Captain Laura Van Schaick is the divisional secretary for women’s ministries in the Ontario Division.

Photo: kate_sept2004/E+ via Getty Images

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