I need permission to play

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, September 3, 2019

By Charles Qualls

I have a confession for you during this column. But first, I have a question for you. What keeps you from playing? Maybe you do. Far too many don’t. Have you forgotten how? Has life robbed you of the permission?

Does being at home and not working at something, or having a favorite show, having a hobby or being at church feel like an indulgence rather than feeling okay? =The “labor day” holiday came and went this week. At our church, we began a new sermon series titled “Lies the Culture Tells Us.” This one seemed timely.

The background scripture was Genesis 1: 26-31. God’s creation act that brought about humanity on the sixth day provides us with the context and the recommendation.

I’m not sure that some of us play as much as we dodge boredom or guilt. The American economy is built, in part, on our desires to avoid boredom. Games can be played online, or wirelessly in your den. Cable systems have never had more channels and if that was not enough, we now have the category of “Reality Shows.” They exist ostensibly to let us watch other people do whatever they already would have been doing before they got paid to do it.

There’s another thing we do to dodge boredom. We work at staying busy. I think we work for a witch’s brew of other reasons.

The average American works a month more per year than in 1970. Americans average only 13 vacation days per year, the lowest of any industrialized nation in the world. And, at least two in six of us don’t use it up. I have a feeling the recession ripples have driven that last statistic upward even more.

I don’t know about you, but I can have weeks where I have passed the mythic 40 hour work-week by the time I go home on Wednesday night. This is despite the notion lay-people have that pastors only work on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.

An estimated 40 percent of U.S. employees regularly work more than 50 hours per week, and 20 percent work more than 60 hours per week, so there are plenty of folks out there who might easily come close to hitting the 3,000-hour mark year after year (keeping in mind that these are the same people who are likely to forgo vacation time to meet deadlines and stay ahead of work-related obligations). That could spell trouble not just for their physical health, but their productivity.

Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter, a clinical psychologist and author observes, “We’ve forgotten how to switch gears. It’s difficult to take vacations and off days. We feel we must stay busy to keep our jobs or stay ahead of the next guy, and it’s become habitual and addictive.”

I mentioned earlier that I have a confession for you. Here it is. You know that I enjoy writing. What I noticed a few years ago, though, was that I was writing and striving for a reason. Truly, probably the doctorate I earned while serving a church full-time from 2004-2008 is in this, too.

Yes, there are professional reasons for me to have done the things I have done. Legitimate and good ones. But, you know what dawned on me about the time I turned 50? Maybe just as big a reason for all of this striving was because I was trying to become “somebody.”

One day, a voice of the God of all Creation said to me, ”Charles, you are somebody! You are a child of God. A person of worth in the eyes of the One who matters most. Work if you love your work. Work, for the job has responsibilities. Achieve if you find fulfillment. But, stop all the striving. Stop the endless, quenchless thirsting to be somebody. Because you are!”

You know what I say? You know what some of us need to hear? Come away and rest! Or play! Some of you need to hear that, and not just every first week of September. You need to hear the call now and then more often than you do: come away and rest!

Do you remember what God did after that sixth day? After creating humanity, God rested. Rest is built into our lives by the very Creator of all life. Balance seems to be the prescription, not neglect of our many responsibilities. The culture will convince you that you are what you do. That your value is found in your work. Don’t believe the lie!

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is the pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.