Several years ago, after a particularly intense season of life, I learned how valuable and important rest is, not only for my physical body but also my mind and spirit. Prioritizing my rest helped my body to heal and reminded me that God created day and night for rhythms of work and rest.
During this season I read Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. The book is about spiritual practices that draw us deeper into relationship with God and how these practices encompass so much more than just a quiet time for Bible reading. God wants our whole selves—mind, body and spirit—and there are so many ways to connect with him. One of the disciplines listed in this book is celebration, which I think is interchangeable with play or fun.
Somewhere along the way, as a grown up with a job and children, I lost fun and celebration. I still celebrated birthdays and holidays, but I lost my ability to seek and savor fun and play in my everyday life. I didn’t mean to cut those out, it just happened. I think I convinced myself that play is something kids need to fill their days with since they don’t have jobs or adult responsibilities. At times, seeking fun felt frivolous, especially when my “to do” list still has tasks on it.
So, I am on a quest to restore fun and celebration in my life. It’s a process and a journey that is not yet complete, but I’m making progress. I may still have more questions than answers, but I see ways in which God is at work in me.
What sounds fun?
This search has led me to writer and speaker Annie F. Downs. In her podcast, “That Sounds Fun,” Downs interviews a variety of guests on a myriad of topics. At the end, she always asks her guests: “What sounds fun to you?” There is no wrong answer, and no answer is too simple. We all have different things that sound fun to us, she says.
“What sounds fun to you, Sara?” I asked myself. Travel is fun for me, but the reality of life doesn’t allow that to happen every week or even every month. Sometimes looking for fun felt like something else to add to my list of tasks, and then it began to feel like a burden. It can be fun to be spontaneous, but if I’m not looking for fun, I don’t always see it.
This winter a friend gave me Downs’ book, That Sounds Fun: The Joys of Being an Amateur, The Power of Falling in Love, and Why You Need a Hobby. The title drew me in immediately. I was sure when I was done reading it, I would be more fun. It was a good book and an easy read, but reading it convinced me I’m just not fun. It was going to take more reflection and seeking to find my fun.
In the book, Downs talks about hobbies and how they make space in our lives for fun. “Hobbies are activities done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure,” she states. “I wonder when we quit doing things regularly, for pleasure, for fun, in our leisure time. And I wonder, as I think about my own life, where my leisure time has gone.”
These are questions I began to ask myself as well. Learning a new hobby sounded fun. But, trying something new often means learning something new that I may not be good at. The world has told me that if I’m not good at something I shouldn’t do it.
Then I read what Downs shares about being an amateur:
- a person who engages in a study, sport or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons
- an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize
- a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity
- a person who admires something; devotee; fan”
We often take the negative meaning of amateur and run with it. “When we hear someone use that term, we automatically assume they have screwed up,” Downs writes. “We don’t even consider that maybe they were just doing something for fun.”
So that became my dilemma. I was uncertain if I had the capacity for fun, and I wasn’t sure I liked the idea of being a negatively-viewed amateur.
Permission to be an amateur
People engage in hobbies for fun, and in my mind a hobby should not cause stress. But it will often cost me something, either in time or money. It’s also okay to give myself permission to be an amateur in my hobbies, I decided. So, this summer my husband and I took a couples’ dance class. It cost us money and one evening of our time. We most certainly were amateurs, and it was definitely fun.
After reading this book I’ve been looking for hobbies and more fun. I’ve asked those around me what kind of hobby I should take up. I don’t typically like their answers. Nothing seems to be the right fit and adding another thing to learn or find time for just seems like more work.
My husband recently pointed out that I enjoy time at the pool with my kids and my friends, maybe that should be my hobby. Yes, that is my summer hobby. This made me wonder if maybe I’m looking too hard for a hobby or something new that sounds fun. Perhaps I’m currently staring things in the face that I have forgotten are fun. When I view my life as fun or as a chance to step away from work, I can see with new eyes that my life does have fun in it.
Somedays I still think adding fun sounds frivolous, but recently a friend and I were having a conversation about celebration that reminded me that fun and celebration could go hand in hand as a spiritual practice. The Life with God Bible says this in the commentary section on Celebration: “Utter delight and joy in ourselves, our life, and our world as a result of our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty and goodness.” This friend and I also talked about Luke 15 and how the entire chapter is about God celebrating.
I am convinced that fun and celebration are gifts from God that he desires for me to seek and share with others. I may not yet have found an answer to Downs’ question—“What sounds fun to you?”—but I’ve not given up.