By John D. Pierce

Productivity often defines my day as being “good.” There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from work well done.

And the more that gets checked off the to-do list, the better.

There are also those “good” days that begin with abandoning the laptop and hitting a hiking trail at sunrise — or watching the summer sun set beyond the green expanse of a baseball field.

Balancing work and play (or, really, restoration) can be challenging. Being keenly aware of the root of that challenge, however, is helpful.

It is the so-called “Protestant work ethic” in which the worst thing you could say about a person was not that they neglected family or their health, but that they were lazy.

While visiting the living museum Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts many years ago, I watched a school group engage with one of the well-studied “residents” of the 17th-century colony.

“What do you do for fun?’ a schoolboy asked.

With an appropriate look of confusion, the colonist said in his British accent: “Fun? I’m not familiar with that word?”

After hearing the boy struggle to offer an explanation along with a few examples, the colonist said: “Oh, you mean amusements. With all the work to be done, we don’t have much time for that.”

Fun, however, is not necessarily frivolous. It has value — like rest — that can actually improve one’s health, relationships and work. And observing Sabbath is not some new idea for people of faith.

The late pastoral care pioneer and influential Baptist leader Wayne Oates — who coined the term “workaholic” — was known to say that you can either choose your Sabbath or it will choose you.

There’s an old saying that no one on his/her deathbed ever said, “I wish I’d gone to the office more.”

There is no one formula for rest, recreation and restoration any more than there is one type of work — which for many of us has no firm beginning and ending times. So each of us has to find our own ways of balancing those aspects of our lives.

Sometimes it means putting fun and restorative times as immovable dates on a calendar or not apologizing for being unavailable at every hour of every day.

This balancing act comes easier for some than others. For me, at least, there is an ongoing challenge to find that sweet spot somewhere between the Puritans and purely lazy.



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