An update: thoughts on writing, leisure, and acknowledging my finite human nature

parent’s summer date night, commence!


(Not to be dramatic or anything…)

I don’t know about you, but the first half of this year flew by in a flurry of work and family life. Almost without notice, months had passed before I realized that my personal writing was taking a serious back seat to everything else going on. Even before the holidays, I sensed my internal/creative/mental gears shifting.

It wasn’t planned, mind you, but once that calendar clicked over to 2021, something in my brain said, 

“Nope. Not ready yet.”

And I was like, Okay, brain. Let’s switch gears for a while. 

I decided to listen to that instinct and take a step back from my regular blogging and newsletter writing (and social media interaction) and allow myself to focus on other areas of productivity. Like the final classes of my undergrad degree, which have been amazing but, you know, demanding of my time and energy…

as well as my actual job (the one where I get paid) of professional development consulting…

and my perpetual role (the one where I get headaches and sweet hugs) of mothering.

Shew. I’m tired just reading that.

working lunch

Speaking of, have you seen this? 

While the conversation about the gender pay gap is nuanced (for instance, women tend to work less traditional hours and choose more flexible careers), I’m all for tearing down any stigma that may still exist around the phrase “working” mother. The truth is, every mama works! I’ve already ranted about how Big Media loves to offer the (obnoxiously) narrowly defined glam version of the “working mom” here, while the rest of us are living a very different (and down-to-earth) reality– somewhere between the carpool line and our Gmail inbox.

So for now, I’ll just add “Mother” to my LinkedIn profile and invite you to connect with me there (if you so desire). Whether we are changing diapers or fielding client requests, we all want to know that our daily work has meaning. 

Inadvertently, I chose to take the first quarter of the year to re-direct my internal resources to other, less public areas of my life because I am finite and I’m learning to acknowledge my limitedness (I think this is called humility…?) But the time off gave me a fresh perspective on something so subjective that it’s sometimes difficult for me to make clear assessments on, that is, about my work as a writer.  

A quick digression: The twentieth-century German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a famous essay in 1948 about the idea of “leisure” –that it was not the simple absence of work, but the attitude and perspective to be able to contemplate things outside of their immediate utility.

We see the lack of true leisure (ironically) in the uber-wealthy who “live a life of leisure” and are still extremely unfulfilled. Precisely because they have not given their life over to something bigger and more meaningful than their own comfort, they are unable to experience authentic times of leisure.

We see the highest form of this when Jesus would pull away from his time with the disciples and public ministry to go and be alone with the Father. Jesus was resting, praying, being filled up, listening, contemplating, and abiding in the love of God. How much more do we need the time and space to gain a more full, rightly aligned, and eternal perspective of our lives?  

Pieper wrote, 

“Leisure is the condition of considering things in a celebrating spirit…Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity…It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness…

And as it is written in the Scriptures, God saw, when ‘He rested from all the works that He had made’  that everything was good, very good (Gen. 1:31), just so the leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.” (Pieper, “Leisure,” 33) 

I haven’t yet experienced a dramatic “a-ha moment” from my time of pausing/stepping back from writing on the internet…but I am enjoying writing this post to you immensely. I mean, I really missed you guys! And for now, that feeling of joy is more than enough. 

And -funny timing- right smack in the middle of this quiet time, an article of mine was published in Be Still magazine. What a fun surprise to see that in my mailbox! If you haven’t yet picked up an issue, you can do so here. 

Here is what I’m learning: I am human, and therefore a limited creation (by design). He is God, and without limit. If we believe that God is our loving and generous Creator, and if He made us to be limited in our resources, then let us honor the reality of our nature (and place our trust in His infinite one.) Our ultimate freedom and daily joy will be birthed from the acknowledgement of this foundational truth.

Let’s listen to the whisper of the Spirit and take those moments of leisure to step back and fully appreciate who God is, who we are, and the wonder of all that He is doing in our lives. In this sense, leisure is a very real part of living coram Deo, and I’m here for it…what about you?

p.s. I recently came across some writing of Jonathan Rogers (one of my favorite authors and a fellow Tennessean) and interestingly, he also referenced Pieper’s thoughts on leisure. Must be something in the water. You can read his letter here.

Published by Sara Beth Longenecker

Sara Beth Longenecker is a writer and blogger based in Nashville, TN. She helps women sort through the noise of our culture by bringing them truth, beauty, and everyday theology.

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