By Brandon Morgan
Dag Hammarskjöld, the former United Nations Secretary General, once wrote about the consequences of living rightly toward God. He writes, "Then He (God) can use you—then perhaps He will use you. And if He doesn’t use you—what matter. In His hand, every moment has its meaning, its greatness, its glory, its peace, its co-inherence."1
Oftentimes we fail to see God in our everyday lives. We view our daily activities as mundane moments that lead us to the summit of our Christian experience. We think of individual moments as steps that lead us to the mountaintop, but I sincerely believe Christ wants us to understand that every moment spent with him is the mountaintop because we can choose to be partakers of his living waters. He can move through our interactions with others, our vocation, and yes, even our hobbies.
A hobby can be defined as an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. When one examines a hobby, on the surface, it seems to have limited utility in the Kingdom. In a society so focused on productivity, anything that doesn’t produce results immediately is seen as a waste of time. Unfortunately, in this culture, it is tempting to associate this mindset in our relationship with the Lord. But this is contrary to the very nature of the Kingdom. Jesus relates to individuals in the form of seeds, leaven; things that are small, unexpected, and take time.
Hobbies are things that can begin small; they can be unexpected, and the initiation and sustainability of a hobby also take time. Although they may not appear useful, I believe hobbies have the ability to bear the kind of fruit that God truly wants to develop in us.
In January, I began indoor rock climbing. Now, looking from the outside in, it seems like a very “cool” hobby, but it’s what I would call a “wonderful struggle.” After my first climbing escapade, everything ached. Muscles I didn’t even know existed were in pain, but something very interesting happened. Although I couldn’t lift my arms at all, my spirit couldn’t feel higher.
As I’ve continued the process, this hobby has become a wellspring in my personal life. It provides me with a joy and peace that few things do as I climb up those walls. As I attempt to improve, I realize it requires patience to persevere when you feel as though you “hit a wall” (pun intended). There’s also a temperance that’s required to make healthy lifestyle choices, to know when to climb, and perhaps just as important, when not to climb. There’s a certain consistency, a faithfulness, required that is necessary for long-term maintenance of the skill. Needless strength used during certain climbing routes diminishes endurance, so one needs to learn when to execute gentleness to truly be an expert.
But one doesn’t simply climb in a vacuum; there’s a climbing community that collaborates to seek the success of others just as much as their own. The goodness and kindness I’ve witnessed in some climbing sessions far exceeds what I have experienced in some church services. Despite all of the benefits this hobby has brought to my life, it doesn’t compare to the major fruit that has developed through climbing. It’s love. Love blooms when people, no matter how dissimilar they may be, share a bond over something they enjoy.
Every person has a life, a background, things they care about; it is here that the eternity God has placed on the heart of every person is revealed. Camaraderie is built, and eventually friendship develops. The command to “love thy neighbor” is no longer something one feels constrained to do, but comes quite naturally. One then begins to see and understand the beautiful thing God did when he created the other individual, and it produces gratitude in one’s heart. One’s love toward God will increase, and it’s at that moment that you begin to understand. You understand that through a hobby, you’ve fulfilled the two great commandments, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself ” (see Luke 10:27). And then you realize that it all happened through a small seed, a small, unexpected activity: a hobby.
This process can happen through a variety of hobbies, whether it’s climbing, playing a musical instrument, knitting, writing, or anything else one does in spare time for leisure. Now, our motivation for picking up hobbies isn’t the fruit that comes out of it, nor should it be. I didn’t start climbing with the thought of the spiritual fruit it would develop. It simply came with a desire to try something new, something I could improve at, and something I could simply enjoy with God. We often don’t understand the gravity of Scripture when it says, “He works all things out for those who love him.” All things. Even hobbies.
So how should we proceed? Well, it’s pretty simple. If you have a hobby, keep it up. Try inviting God into it if you haven’t done so already. This doesn’t require an hour of prayer time. It’s simply saying, “Lord, come into this time of (insert hobby here) with me. Thank you, Lord.” It’s a pretty simple thing. Also, try doing your hobby with other people. It’s a way you can see the best in people, what God sees in people.
If you don’t have a hobby, that’s fine as well. Don’t try to force anything. Don’t try fitting the proverbial “square peg into the round hole.” If you desire to have a hobby, just pray for something you can enjoy with God. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new. Doesn’t the book of Isaiah mention something about God “doing a new thing?” You never know what you may enjoy until you find it (see Isaiah 43:18-19).
Psalm 37:4 NKJV, says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” Oftentimes, we think of the latter half of the scripture about the desires of the heart. However, I think the scripture really describes a double blessing. We have the privilege of enjoying God in our lives, in every ounce of the hobby we may enjoy, and he also gives us the things that we really want. So begin to enjoy God in whatever hobby he has given you.
Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings, trans. Alfred A. Knopf and Faber & Faber (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964), 127.