My schedule screams business. It makes me feel as if the world needs not just me, but the best of me. And I secretly love it.
As a 20-something guy, I love being the hero. I love saying yes to things. I love using my youthful energy to do the things that nobody else seems to want to do. It’s part of living a meaningful life, right? If my schedule is full of things that are impactful, it must mean that the world around me needs me.
The past year consisted of just thinking about the things that I could do to have fun when I finally had some free time. I scrolled through Instagram accounts, bookmarking things I could do when I finally made time. In December, I struggled to make the decision to go away for a week. I really needed to stay here. I really needed to meet with a coworker to discuss new ideas. And I really needed to clean out my closet. These were good, productive things. As a Christian, I thought God needed me to do all of these important things, right? But I decided to go ahead and go home to El Salvador. After all, I could answer emails, work on my writing, and plan lessons early in the morning or late at night during the trip.
Then the most tragic thing happened when I got to the place I was staying.
I had no Wi-Fi.
My phone data was crap, and I couldn’t even load a Snapchat, let alone my email. I decided not to worry about things and just be present. My first night there as I was clinging for life on the back of a pickup truck, I realized that I operate under the mentality that God needs me. Deep down, I believed this tiny voice that made me feel more worthy if I was important, needed, and busy.
I was quickly hit with the humbling but helpful realization: He really doesn’t need me.
Sure, the world can use all sorts of help. Yes, productivity is good. The work we do can go a long way to fix the mess we’ve created in the world. I follow Jesus and I want to create powerful ripples that show people he is about justice and peace and caring for people. I want what I do to draw people closer to Him. It drives me.
But God is first and foremost our Dad. And He is an amazing one. He literally created the entire world just because he loved us. Sure, He’s a fan of any way I can help more people see him like that, but what God is really after is my heart. He wants me just as I am. He wants me to enjoy him and my life because he’s a dad who just loves his kid.
The next morning in El Salvador, I watched my young cousins run with joy, energy, and excitement without a single worry on the beach. My phone was in my backpack, and it seemed like a great time to answer emails. After all, the beer would make it relaxing, so I was basically resting. But I decided not to reach for my phone. Over the next few hours, I realized that every single thing I do matters to God, not just the productive things I do, but also the fun in my life. Like many fathers, He gets enjoyment out of his children laughing until their bellies hurt, going out for drinks with a group of friends, going shopping (not my personal favorite), and even traveling, or skydiving. He cares about my well-being, and most importantly, I believe he cares for me as a father cares for his child. He doesn’t just want happiness for me, but he wants me to have life and life to the fullest.
If you grew up around messages that makes this hard to believe, just look at Jesus. People loved being around Him. Nobody loves to be around the guy that is answering emails for hours (me). People were attracted to Him. Contrary to popular belief, He didn’t spend his time on earth giving everyone rules. He said he came to bring life. He often chose rest and refilling himself over constantly working. He got invited to a wedding where he ended up providing some of the best wine for the party. He said yes to fun and so can I. In that story, I see a dude that is normal, having fun, and not worrying about the things that need to get done. I am sure He could have been healing some people that night, but he chose fun. …because he wanted to show us that he is just like one of us. He lived the most meaningful life that I know, and he still had room for fun.
So I’m learning that every single thing that I do matters to God—from my productivity to how often I laugh. I don’t always have to be “on.” God designed us to have a heart that is full of life. I realize that fun can mean different things to different people, but what is the thing you haven’t done in a long time that makes you say, “Today was a good day!” I believe that if God says he wants me to have life and have it to the fullest, that means that he not only takes an interest in my work but also in the things that make me laugh and leave me free of worries. For me, that comes in the form of travel and spending time with friends and family. It comes from laughter and dancing (which I am horrible at). I bet He gets a good laugh at that.
Don’t limit your potential for joy to your Instagram feed or thinking about the good days that are yet to come. Don’t be deceived into thinking that having fun means less impact on the world. It doesn’t make us weaker—it actually makes us stronger. It equips us to have more impact. The world is still spinning, the work is still happening, and emails are still getting answered. But let’s have some fun while we’re at it.
Think about your typical week. How often do you just have fun? Why do you think that is?
What if God designed us to have a lot more fun—true joy—than the average person experiences? Why would He do that? What would the impact on the world be if we did?
Sadly, a lot of us don’t even know what fun is for us. Take a few minutes and jot down at least ten ways you love to relax or play. Think about restful fun and adventurous fun—whatever those mean to you. Try for at least two things on the list to be big, exciting, plan-for-them experiences, and make at least five of them experiences that are accessible any day of the week at a low-cost. Share with a friend or journal about what you notice as you make your list.
Make a plan to start making sure fun hits your week. People who follow the practices of the Bible set aside a whole day of the week just to enjoy life. (God actually commanded this, and it’s awesome.) You could try that. It’s called Sabbath. Or you could start working it into your week in smaller ways and planning big experiences into your year. Either way, make a plan and make it happen. Your productivity is more likely to increase than suffer, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Tell a friend your plan to help make sure you do it.
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